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11 To the North of Lake Huron, and between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa 
River, the superficial covering of the country is almost invariably a yellow sand. 
This, also, overlies the clays of this region, which are exposed only in river cuttings. 
This sand is most largely developed along the principal rivers of the district, and 
it also covers St. Joseph's Island, and part of the Grand Manitoulin. It is largely 
developed on the Dog and Kaministiquia Rivers, and spreads over a considerable 
tract below the Great Falls of the Michipicoten, as well as over a smaller area on 
the Batchehwahnung River. The Goulais River, in its lower stretch, flows in a 
very tortuous course between mountain ranges, through a wide and fertile valley, 
which has yellow sand as a subsoil over a great part of its area. This yellow 
sand also extends far and wide over the higher table-lands of the Thessalon and 
Mississagui Rivers. On either side of the Spanish River, below the great bend, 
it forms an extensive plain, bearing a heavy growth of pines, and it is also found 
in large patches north of that part of the coast lying between the mouth of the 
Mississagui and Spanish Rivers. The sand is widely spread almost all along the 
valleys of the White-fish and Sturgeon Rivers. 

11 Much of the region thus covered, lies within the District of Algoma, and this 
great arenaceous deposit may hence be conveniently designated as the Algoma 
sand." — Extract from Geology of Canada, 1863, pp. 907-8. 

In a soil like that just described, hemp and flax will flourish well. 

The wide distribution of hemp is remarkable, but easily explained when we 
consider that it is an annual which requires only a few months of summer tem- 
perature to bring it to full perfection. It thrives in the north of Russia, and in 
Italy. If we compare the summer temperatures of these countries, we shall not 
find so great a difference as we might be led to expect by considering only their 
latitudes, or their mean annual temperatures. Thus Petersburgh and Moscow, 
in N, latitude 59° 56 v and 56° 45 s , have mean summer temperatures of 62° 06 v 
and 57° 10 v of Fahr., while Milan and Rome, in N. latitude 45° 28 v and 41° 53\ 
have summer temperatures of 73° 04 N and 75° 20\ 

From observations taken by Professor Kingston at the Magnetic Observatory, 
the nean summer temperature for Toronto, in N. latitude 43° 30\ or the mean of 
Jun3, July and August, is 65° nearly. 


The latitude of Quebec is 46° 49 v N. and its corresponding mean derived from 
old printed records is 67°. 

The latitude of the north shore of Lake Huron corresponds very nearly with 
that of Quebec, and its summer temperature is much the same as that of Penetan- 
guishene, whose summer temperature drawn from very scanty observations is 
said to be 68° nearly. 

As regards its waters, soil, and climate, therefore, there is no better district in 
Canada for the growth and manipulation of hemp, than that described in the ex- 
tract from the geological survey. 

Several able writers having within the last few years drawn attention to the 
importance of the culture of flax and hemp, we may make use of the facts which 
they have collected, and apply them to Canada. 

"We cannot safely rest our claims to be counted among the foremost nations of 
the world in agriculture, upon what we have already done. 

The possession of the raw material, or of any other incidental or natural advan- 
tage, is daily becoming a less and less important element in the race after national 
wealth, and manufacturing industry. Skill and intelligence, on the other hand, 
are daily acquiring a greater proportionate power and importance. 



FLAX. (Linum Usitatissimum.) 

" Flax and hemp," says Olivier de Serres, "are of extremest value to man, 
both in sickness and in health, in life, and even in death." The Scriptures 
make the flame of flaxen fibre the type of the short and ephemeral duration 
of all human joys and sorrows. " A bruised reed shall he not break, and 
smoking flax shall he not quench, '* (Matt. xii. 20.) That is, he will forbear 
to extinguish so brief a light as that of flax already smoking and half 
burnt out. 

To innumerable individuals of the great human family does flax supply 
the various items of clothing, writing material, bedding, fuel, medicine, 
external as well as internal ; manure, material to aid the painter's art, and, 
indirectly, animal food of the highest nutritive qualities; and when properly 
managed, it affords that inestimable blessing to a population, -^-a constant 
source of remunerative employment. 

The flax plant belongs to the natural family of Linacese, so named from 
the botanical name (Linum) of the genus to which it belongs. The species 
are found chiefly in temperate parts of the world, with a few in tropical 
regions ; most are remarkable for the tenacity of the fibre of their inner bark* 
The native country of the flax plant is unknown ; but as it was cultivated 
by the earliest civilized nations, it is probably a native of oriental regions, 
from which it has travelled into other countries. 

Description of Plant. ^-It is an annual, with long and slender but fibrous 
roots, which penetrate to a considerable distance into the soil, where this is 
loose and friable. The stem is smooth, simple and erect ; branched, or, as 
usually cultivated, branching only towards the top ; from one and a half to 
thrje feet in height. It consists of a pith and woody part, with the layer of 
bost fibres covered with cuticle on the outside* 

n he leaves are alternate, sessile, linear-lanceolate, and smooth. The 
flowers, of a blue color, are arranged in a corymbose panicle. The sepals, or 
gnen outer leaflets of the flower are five in number, ovate acute, slightly 
cilated, nearly equal to the capsule in length. The petals, blue in color and 
fi\3 in number, are obscurely crenate, comparatively large, and deciduous; 
Tie stamens are equal in number to the petals and alternate with them, 
hving their filaments united together near their bases into a kind of ring, 
Te ovary, or young seed-vessel, is divided, into five cells, and is surmounted 
b five stigmata. Capsule, or boll, roundish, but rather pointed at the apex, 
d/ided into five perfect cells, each of which is again subdivided by an 


imperfect partition, thus forming ten divisions, each of them containing a 
single seed. These seeds are oval in shape, flattened or plump, smooth and 
shining, of a brownish color externally, but sometimes white j always white 
internally : the seed-coat mucilaginous, and the kernel of the seed oily and 

The flax plant was cultivated by the earliest of the civilized nations of 
antiquity? and is becoming every day of still greater importance. It may 
be seen from" the paintings in the tombs of Egypt, that it was early cultivated 
in that country, and it has been proven that it was so, from a microscopic 
examination of mummy-cloth. We read in the book of "Exodus" of the 
flax and the barley being smitten by the plague of hail in Egypt, and in 
" Joshua" of the spies, who had been sent to report on the state of Jericho, 
being hid with stalks of flax. Subsequently, it was much cultivated both 
by the Greeks and Romans. 

The flax plant is one of the humblest of those which are cultivated, and 
yet it is one of the most important, thought not particularly useful as an 
article of diet. Its slender stem, narrow leaves, and beautiful blue flowers, 
give it an elegant appearance. Its smooth and shining seeds have their 
external coating formed of much condensed mucilage, while the white kernel 
is gorged with oil, especially valued for its drying properties ; and the refuse 
or oil-cake affords a nutritious diet for cattle. The fibre of flax separated 
from the stem may be made use of for cordage, for coarse fabrics, or for the 
finest cambrics and lawns. Hence it is a principal object of attention in 
Russia and Poland, a highly successful culture in Belgium, carried on also 
in Germany, France, and Italy, the object of frequent legislative enactment 
in England, and of recent most successful cultivation in Ireland. Hence, 
also, it was re-established by the late Pasha in Egypt. It has been frequently 
recommended for culture in India on account of its fibre, as it already is in 
almost every part of that country for its seed. As much attention, also, has 
been given to the husbandry of flax in the United States and Canada as to 
any other branch of rural economy. 

The encouragement given by Government to the culture of flax in Ireland 
has been of considerable advantage. The quality of the flax has been so greatly 
improved that the Jury of Class IV. of the Exhibition of 1851, stated — 
" The entire collection shown by the Royal Society for Improving and Pro- 
moting the Growth of Flax in Ireland is so highly valuable, and so clearly 
illustrates the great advanees which have been made and the important 
service whieh this society has rendered to the country, that they determine 
to mark their high appreciation of their labours by recommending them fo 
have one of the Council Medals." 

But, notwithstanding the endeavors of successive governments, the supp 
of home-grown flax has never reached the extent required by the manufa 
turers of the United Kingdom. At present, it is considered that the co 
sumption is equal to 160,000 tons. About 70,000 tons were, for sever 
years, annually imported ; or more precisely, in the year 1831, 46,820 tonsj 
in the year 1843, about 72,000 tons were imported, but in 1853 no less tha^ 
94,000 tons, or an increase of about 31 per cent, in the decennial period! 
If the 160,000 tons be valued at an average of forty, or, according to others 
at fifty pounds a ton, the amount is enormous. To this must be addec 
"£1,500,000, the value of 850,000 quarters of linseed, used as seed and foi 
crushing purposes ; and about £500,000, the cost of 70,000 tons of oil-cake. 


which are annually imported, in addition to that made at home, for feeding 
purposes. The quantity of flax fibre necessary to supply the demand of the 
United Kingdom would consume the produce of 500,000 acres; while in 
Ireland, during the year (1853), only 136,000 were cultivated, and, probably, 
not a fourth of that quantity in the rest of the kingdom." (Wilson.) The 
seed is imported from India, Egypt, Russia, Sicily, Prussia, and Holland j 
and the oil-cake from France, Germany, and the United States. * 

Mr. Fane is of opinion that — u Under proper arrangements, the whole 
might be home-grown. If all were, the money result would be enormous, 
because every ton of fibre involves the growth of eight tons of flax straw — 
eight tons of straw being required to produce one of fibre ; and every ton of 
straw involves the production of six bushels of seed, worth at least 6s. 6d. a 
bushel. These would give the following money result : — 

1,630,000 tons of straw, producing six bushels of seed to each 

ton, at 6s. 6d. a bushel, would give £2,496,000 

1 60,000 tons of fibre, at £50 a ton, would give 8,000,000 


"Without advocating, or considering it desirable, that all the increasing 
quantities of flax required by the manufacturers of the United Kingdom 
should be grown in that country, we may take advantage of the information 
collected as applicable to our own. It has, indeed, been objected, by Mr. 
H. S. Thompson, that if forty stone of flax (value 7s. 6d. per stone) is the 
average produce of a reasonably well-cultivated acre of flax, 70,000 tons of 
imported flax would require 280,000 acres of land for its cultivation, which 
is " clean and in good tilth," i\ e., " precisely in the state in which it is best 
fitted for producing corn," and, " on an average, at least four quarters." 
" The 280,000 acres required to produce the flax imported, would therefore 
produce, if cropped with wheat, 1,120,000 quarters, worth (at 7s. per bushel) 
£3,136,000 ; which approaches tolerably near to the estimate given by Mr. 
Nichols of the value of the imported flax, viz., £3,490,000." But these 
objections are made to the occupation of good land in a country like England, 
where the whole quantity is but limited, and do not apply to countries like 
America, where there is an unlimited extent of fertile land. (Royle.) 

" If we refer to the statistics of British and Irish exports, we find that in 1813 there 
were shipped from the United Kingdom, in round numbers, 91,000,000 yards of linen, 
and that the exports of 1853 reached nearly 130,000,000 yards; the total value of all 
kinds of linen and yarn exported in the former year being £3,702,052, and in the latter 
£5,910,355."— Belfast Mercury. 

Though the culture of flax is considered by some as not particularly 
eligible for the best cultivated lands of England, it is yet in other countries 
accounted a most desirable object of attention, being in Belgium called "the 
Golden crop," and in Ireland " the Rent-paying crop." In Russia, it is one of 
the principal objects of culture, and has been much extended by the continual 
advances of English capital; while in Egypt, the culture was re-established 
by the vigorous but despotic policy of Mehemet AH. In Canada, it is to be 
hoped that we may be induced to cultivate it in suitable localities. In such 
situations it will be found an eligible crop if the population is numerous and 
labour abundant. Mr. Nichols says : — " The quantity of flax which ought to 
be cultivated in any locality, must, in some measure, be governed by the 
quantity of labour there obtainable. One acre in a hundred, and one in fifty, 


have each been named as a suitable proportion. It is calculated that an acre 
of good flax, as it stands in the field, containing, say, about fifty stone of fibre, 
will afford employment for from twelve to fourteen weeks to a man skilled in 
the several processes of its preparation." But it is not to men only that flax 
affords employment, but also to women and to children ; as it is skill rather 
than strength that is required for many of the operations. 

Flax grown in Russia, Prussia, and Egypt, is, generally speaking, coarser 
than that grown in Holland, Belgium, and France. But it is the latter, 
which is chiefly required in increasing quantities. Mr. McAdam says : — 
"It is certain that ail hot countries, or those which, like Russia, have a short, 
warm summer, cannot furnish fine flax fibre, but it is precisely coarse fibre 
that is now so much wanted. The bulk of fine flax used in the linen manu- 
facture is trifling compared with the coarse. A Belfast or Leeds mill of 5,000 
spindles will consume only 200 to 250 tons of flax annually ; while one of 
the same size at Dundee or Kirkaldy, will consume 1,000 to 1,200 tons. 
Belgium, Holland, France, and Ireland can supply the world with fine fibre; 
but Russia and Egypt cannot keep pace with the demand for coarse." 

Canadian flax will bring on an average from £40 to £50 a ton in Dundee 
and Belfast, and these prices ought to pay for the growth and export. 


The useful products of the flax plant consist of the seed, and of the fibre. 
Linseed or the seeds of the flax plant, are oval, pointed in shape, compressed 
with a sharp margin ; brownish colored, smooth, and shining on the out- 
side, but white internally, and without odour. The outside has a bland, 
mucilaginous taste, in consequence of the skin of the seed being covered 
with condensed mucus. The white part, or almond of the seed, has an oily 
taste, from containing fixed oil, which is separated by expression. 

These seeds analysed by Meyer, consist, in one hundred parts, of 1512 
mucilage (nitrogenous mucilage with acetic acid and salts, according to some), 
chiefly in the seed-coat, 11-26 fatty oil in the nucleus. In the husk, emul- 
sin 44-38, besides wax 0-14, acrid soft resin 2-48, starch with salts 1-48. In 
the nucleus, besides the oil, gum 6-15, albumen 278, gluten 2-93, also 
resinous coloring matter 55, yellow extractive with tannin and salts (nitre 
and the chloride of potassium and calcium) 191, sweet extractive with malic 
acid and some salts 1088. 

The condensed mucus which abounds in the testa of the seed is readily 
acted on by hot water, and a viscid mucilaginous fluid is formed, in which 
are two distinct substances ; one completely soluble in water analogous to 
common gum, called Arabine by chemists ; the other portion is merely 
suspended, and is considered to be analogous to the Bassorine, found chiefly 
in Gum Bussora, and in Cherry-tree gum. Alcohol produces a white, flaky, 
and acetate of lead, a dense precipitate in mucilage of linseed. 

Linseed oil, which we have seen is contained in the kernel of the seeds, is 
obtained by expression, and may be either cold-drawn, or, as usually obtained, 
after the seeds have been subjected to a heat of 200°. The former, as in the 
case of cold-drawn castor oil, is paler, with less color and taste than linseed oil 
prepared with the aid of heat. This is of a deep yellow or brownish color, of 
a disagreeable smell and taste, specific gravity 0-932, soluble in alcohol and 
ether; differing from many other fatty oils, especially in its property of drying 


into a hard, transparent varnish — a peculiarity which is increased by boiling 
the oil, either alone, or with some of the preparations of lead. 

The yield of oil from a bushel of East Indian seeds is 14f lb. to 16 lb. ; 
of Egyptian, 15 lb.; of Sicilian, 14 J lb. to 15 J lbs.; of Russian, 11 lb. to 
13 lb. ; of English or Irish, 10f to 12 lb. 

Linseed oil, according to Sace, is composed of Margarine and Oleine in 
nearly equal proportions. But the oleic acid of linseed differs from that of 
other fatty bodies. The anhydrous acid is composed of carbon 46, hydrogen 
38, oxygen 5. The margaric acid is as usual composed of carbon 34, hydro- 
gen 33, oxygen 3. The glycerine obtainable from linseed oil in large quantities, 
is also similar to that procured from other fats. 

Linseed, after having had the oil expressed from them, are in the form of a 
flat mass, commonly called oil-cake. This being reduced to coarse powder, 
forms the linseed meal which is so commonly employed for making poultices, 
though these are also formed of the simply powdered seeds. From the 
chemical composition, it is also evident how nourishing the linseed is 
likely to be, and, indeed, from experience is well known to be, for fattening 

In the imports of flax, the terms codilla and tow are very often used as 
synonymous, but codilla forms the first workings in the dressing of flax, and 
is longer than tow ; it is more or less dirty, and in consequence sometimes 
cheaper than tow. 


In addition to the composition of the seed, it is interesting to know that of 
the plant in general. This we are able do in a very satisfactory manner, from 
Dr. Hodge's u Lecture on the Composition of the Flax Plant/' and his paper 
read before the British Association, at Belfast, 3rd September, 1852. In this 
he communicated the history of a crop grown by himself for experimental 
purposes, and the progress of which he was able carefully to watch, from the 
sowing of the seed to its conversion into dressed flax for the market. From 
this we obtain the following information : — 

u July 28th. — One plant of flax, in seed, was taken — height above ground, 
31 inches, root, 5 J inches long; length from surface of field to first branch, 
24 inches. About five inches of the lower end of stem had become yellow. 
The weight of entire plant was 71*1 grains. It was cut into three portions, 
which were separately incinerated, with the following results : — 

1. Root and lower part of stem weighed, dried, 660 grains, gave 0-094 
ash=l-424 per cent. 

2. Capsules and branches, dry, weighed 947, gave -293 ash=3094 per 

3. Middle portion, dry, weighed 555, gave -143 ash. Ash in dry stem 
2-622 per cent. 

August 10th. — One plant taken — entire length with root, 37 inches; length 
from surface of soil to branches, 29 inches; stem of a light straw color leaves 
withered on ten inches of stem ; capsules ten in number — seeds green ; weight 
of entire plant 71 grains ; branches and capsules, 31-8 grains ; water in plant 
45335 grains; solid matter in do., 25665 : inorganic matter in do., 1-006 



Water 63-852 Dry 

Organic matters 34-732 96-08 

Ash 1-416 3.92 

Total 100-000 100-00 

August 25th. — The pulling of the crop was begun. A plant was taken 
and examined; weight of entire plant, 62-40 grains; weight of capsules, 


In fresh plant. Dry. * 

Water 56-64 

Organic matters 41 "97 96-89 

Ash 1-39 3-11 

Total .- 100*00 100-00 

Water in straw of plants as sent to the steeping works, after 14 days' ex- 
posure to the air in stooks, 12-2 per cent. ; water in air-dried capsules, 11-84 
per cent, ; weight of the air dried flax, with bolls produced on the experimental 
field, 7-770 lb. 


One hundred parts of the ash of the dry straw and capsules had respec- 
tively the following composition: — 

Ash of Straw. Of Capsules. 

Potash 20-32 16-38 

Soda 2-u7 6-25 

Chloride of sodium 9-27 12*98 

Lime 19 88 13-95 

Magnesia 4'05 3*91 

Oxide of iron 2-83 0'38 

Sulphuric acid 713 14-51 

Phosphoric acid 10*24 23"26 

Carbonic acid 10-72 6*37 

Silica 12-80 0*67 

Total 99-31 99-66 

The proportion of nitrogen contained in the straw and capsules was ascer- 
tained to be as follows, per cent. : — 

1. In the straw dried at 212° 0*53 

2. In the capsules or bolls, do 1'26 

The general results of the examination of a specimen of flax straw taken 
from the experimental crop, are as follows : — " The presence of a volatile oil 
having been indicated, a quantity of the stems of the plant carefully deprived 
of the seed capsules, were distilled with water containing common salt; and 
from the distillate which was without action on litmus, I obtained an oil 
of a yellow color. Five pounds of the stems afforded about ten grains of this 
oil, which had an agreeable, penetrating odour, and the distillate of the stems 
suggested the peculiar smell which is remarked on entering a room where 
flax is stored. The solutions obtained on. examination were found to contain 
wax; traces of chlorophylle ; a peculiar green resin; a bright brown gum 
resin, which presented some of the characters of the principle which Pagen- 
stecher termed linen, but could not be indentified with it ; a modification of 
tannic acid which afforded a gray precipitate with perchloride of iron, but was 
not affected by solutions of isinglass or tartar emetic ; gum, not affected by 



solution of borax, or basic silicate of potash ; a brown coloring matter; albu- 
men ; casein ; starch ; pectin ; cellulose ; and salts." 

The result of Dr. Hodge's experiments has been further placed in a very 
clear light by Mr. Wilson. The object of these was to ascertain the relative 
proportions of the produce of flax, and also the distribution of inorganic matter 
in them. The flax employed had been steeped in the ordinary way, and was 
found to contain 173 per cent, of ash. Of this, air-dried straw, 4,000 lb. 
weight were taken, which produced : — 

Of dressed fibre 500 lb. 

Of fine tow 132 " 

Of coarse tow 192 " 

Of fibre in all 824 lb. 

These products contained : — 

In the dressed flax 4 - 48 lb. of ash 

" fine tow ..2-08 " 

" coarse tow 2-56 " 

Or, in the whole of the fibre .... 9- 12 lb. inorganic matter. 

So that 5908 lb., which the crop had withdrawn from the soil, remained 
in the useless portion, while only 9-12 lb. were carried off in 824 lb. of the 
dressed fibre and tow. 

Analysis of the flax plant and of the soils in which it is grown were first 
carefully made by Sir. R. Kane, and afterwards by Dr. Hodges and others. 
They have been repeated by Messrs. Mayer and Brazier, in the Laboratory of 
the Royal College of Chemistry. The localities from which the latter obtained 
their specimens of flax, by the aid of Mr. A. Marshall of Leeds, were Esthonia, 
or Estland, Livonia, or Lievland, Courland, and Lithuania. The first of these 
districts, with the second and third mentioned, are situated on the eastern 
shores of the Baltic; the fourth is the only inland country. 

From their analysis, the following comparative table was made, from which 
it will be readily seen, in what points the ashes of these different specimens 
agree in composition. 





Sesquioxide of Iron . . 


Chloride of Sodium . . 
" of Potassium 
Phosphoric Acid 

Sulphuric Acid 

Silicic Acid 











24 09 









1 31 











100 00 









15 : 47 



We also append, in a tabular form, the result of Sir R. Kane's analysis of 
this plant, taken from his paper, read before the Royal Dublin Society, on 
the 6th of April, 1847. 



A B 

Courteai District. 

C D 

Antwerp District. 


■5 "2 












S bb 
£ o 























4 54 















13 : 43 



















3 : 19 









Sesquioxide of Iron .... 




Sulphuric Acid 

Phosphoric Acid 

Silicic Acid 


Chloride of Sodium .... 






100 00 



In the ashes, both of the Belgian and of the Russian specimens, we meet 
with a very large amount of alkali (nearly 40 per cent.) : the quantity, too, 
of phosphoric acid is very considerable (from 10 to 15 per cent.). These 
analyses then furnish a further proof that flax must be classed among the most 
exhausting crops, for, the amount of valuable mineral substances which it 
removes from the soil considerably exceeds the quantity which is generally 
extracted from it in the form of wheat or corn. 

From a statement of Mr. McAdam, it appears that one rood of land yields 
about 12.7 cwt. of recently pulled flax plant. If we take this number as the 
basis of calculation, and the average per centage of ash at 353 lb., of alkalies 
at 39-58 lb., and of phosphoric acid at 12*51 lb., we find that a flax crop 
removes from a rood of land not less than 12-21 lb. of alkalies, and 594 lb. 
of phosphoric acid. On the other hand, we have learned from the researches 
of Mr. Way (Royal Agricultural Journal, vol. vii. p. 593), that a rood of 
land, which has served for the cultivation of wheat, loses (an average taken 
from a great number of analyses) about 7*5 lb. of alkali and 69 lb. of phos- 
phoric acid. These figures show that the amount of phosphoric acid in the 
flax crop closely approaches that of the wheat, whilst the latter extracts only 
about half the quantity of alkali which we find in the former. Hence, it 
would appear, that a flax crop is at least as exhausting as a crop of wheat. 

There is, however, one striking point of dissimilarity between the cultiva- 
tion of wheat and that of flax, and we are indebted to Sir R. Kane for having 
for the first time brought this point under the notice of the farmer in a 

forcible manner, viz. 

•■ That while the mineral ingredients which we 

remove from our fields in wheat, or cerealia in general, become constituents 
of food, and enter in this manner into a circulation, from which, even under 
very favorable circumstances, they return to the soil only after the lapse of 
some time, the woody fibre of flax, as a necessary preliminary to its being used 
by man, is separated to a considerable extent from those very mineral sub- 
stances which are so essential for its successful growth. This mineral matter, 
when economized in a proper manner by the farmer, may be returned to his 
field to keep up the equilibrium of its fertility. 



The vegetation of the flax plant resembles in this respect the growth of the 
sugar cane, from the culture of which we extract a material consisting entirely 
of atmospheric constituents. The inorganic substances taken up by the plant 
are only instruments used in its production, which should be as carefully pre- 
served as tools in a manufactory, and will then do further duty in promoting 
the elaboration of future crops." 

Messrs. Mayer and Brazier then directed their attention to the soils upon 
which the different specimens of flax had been grown, samples, of which 
through the kindness of Mr. Marshall, had likewise been forwarded to Dr. 
Hoffman. These soils all gave a brownish colour to boiling water, owing to a 
portion of the organic matter being soluble in that menstruum. 

From their various analyses, Messrs. Mayer and Brazier obtain, by calcula- 
tion, the following amounts of constituents of 100 parts in the soil :— ■ 






Sesquioxide of Iron 


Chloride of Sodium 

Sulphuric Acid 

Phosphoric Acid 

Organic matter 

Insoluble residue, after deducting ) 
organic matter \ 


















The insoluble residue constituting the greater portion of the soil, was 
fused with carbonate of potash. Upon calculation, they yielded the follow- 
ing results per cent. : — 



Sesquioxide of Iron 
Phosphoric Acid . . 
Silicic Acid 

















80 5676 

88 3345 

In all the four soils they found, comparatively speaking, considerable 
quantities of a kali, especially potash, and also of phosphoric acid. They 
closely resemble the Belgian soils analysed by Sir Robert Kane, as may be 
seen from the tables which they borrow from Sir Robert's paper. 








Sesquioxide of Iron . . 


Chloride of Sodium . . 

Sulphuric Acid 

Phosphoric Acid 

Organic matter not dri- 
ven off at 100° p. cent 













Hamme Zog. 

A trace. 



Not named. 








No trace. 

















That we may have a complete view of what is required in soils for the 
successful culture of flax, we adduce Sir It. Kane's analyses of three Irish 
soils and one Belgian, from the Report of the Flax Improvement Society of 
Ireland. The Irish soils, as described by Mr. McAdam, were from the 
counties of Londonderry and Tyrone, and were considered very good for flax. 
The Belgian was from Duffel, in the Province of Antwerp, and may be taken 
as representing a third-rate class of flax soil in that country, requiring much 
manure, but producing good crops. The large proportion of sand, and the 
little moisture in this last, deserve notice : — 

Irish No. 1. 

Irish, No. 2. 

Irish, No. 3. 


Silica and Silicious Sand 










9-41 * 


Oxide of Iron 




Basic Phosphate of Iron 


Carbonate of Lime 


Magnesia, Alkalies, and Sulphuric ) 

and Muriatic Acids ) 

Organic Matters with Nitrogen 









The importance of flax culture being admitted, we may devote a few words 
to the objections which are usually alleged against it. These chiefly consist 
of the opinions entertained respecting the exhausting nature of a flax crop. 
This is certainly true, as Dr. Royle says, where everything is taken from the 
soil, and nothing returned to it; but the elementary principles of which both 
cotton and flax fibre, as well as sugar, consist, are now known to be obtained 
almost entirely from the atmosphere. Therefore, by taking away only the 
cotton, the flax, or the sugar, and returning all the other parts of the plant 
to the. soil, these products will impoverish the soil as little as it is possible 
for any culture to do. This, as far as flax is concerned may be effected by 
some of the improved methods of preparing the fibre, and by feeding cattle 
on the oil-cake of the seeds, and thus returning all the other constituents 


which had been taken from the soil. Mr. Nichols observes that every farmer 
will be enabled, by applying the seed of his flax crop to that purpose, to 
obtain a supply of the richest manure, which, with the offal separated from 
the fibre in course of preparation, will serve to renovate the soil and secure 
its undiminished fertility. This we find fully proved by the foregoing and 
other analyses of the different parts of the plant, and of the soil in which 
it has been grown, as well as of the products obtained in the improved 
steeping and preparation of the fibre. 

The analyses of Mayer and Brazier correspond closely with those made by 
Sir IX. Kane, of specimens of Belgian flax ; and their conclusions also coin- 
cide with his, that while the mineral ingredients which we remove from our 
fields in wheat, become constituents of food, the woody fibre of flax is sepa- 
rated from those very mineral substances which are so essential for its 
successful growth; and they forcibly observe that "The inorganic substances 
taken up by the plant, are only instruments in the production of flax, which 
should be as carefully preserved as tools in a manufactory, and will then do 
further duty in promoting the elaboration of future crops." 

Climate. — One of the most important considerations in attempting the 
culture of flax in new situations or countries is that of climate, though one 
that is frequently neglected. On this subject, Mr. McAdam has made some 
very just observations. Though the climate of the British Isles is well 
adapted to the growth of this plant, those districts which possess the most 
equable temperature will be found the most suitable. A regular supply of 
genial moisture in spring, without an excess of wet in autumn, is most favor- 
able. The severe droughts which frequently occur in spring in Belgium 
often destroy the crop. If, after springing to the height of two or three 
inches, a long continuance of drought should occur, with a hot sun, the heat 
parches up the earth, as the delicate leaves of the plant are unable to exclude 
the scorching rays from the surface soil, and the roots have not penetrated 
sufficiently deep to secure a supply of moisture. Flax is then in the most 
critical state; the plant droops, turns a whitish yellow, and, if the drought 
continue long, dies on arid tracts of land. In such a case flax may be bene- 
ficially watered. 

When the plant acquires a sufficient height to thoroughly cover the ground, 
dry weather becomes comparatively harmless; but occasional gentle showers 
are very needful to produce a regular and vigorous growth. In fact, a slow, 
steady growth, from the germinating of the seed to the maturity of the plant, 
is requisite for the quality and yield of fibre. Hence it is found that in 
countries approaching the northern limits of the temperate zone, the short 
hot summers induce too rapid growth, and although the quantity of fibre 
produced is pretty large, it is never of a fine reed. This is strongly exem- 
plified by Russia, as, out of an export frequently reaching 40,000 to 50,000 
tons per annum, none sells higher than £48; whereas, in Belgium and 
Holland, the price often reaches £150 and £180 per ton. The best samples 
of British flax sell for £65 to £70, or even £85 per ton. 

For the same reason, insular climates or long lines of coast, whose position 
insures a more equable temperature and continued supply of moisture from 
spring till autumn, are found to produce the best flax. In such the plant 
springs up to a height of thirty or forty inches, in a straight, slender stem, 
with few or no branches, and only two or three seed vessels to each stalk. 


So, also, Mr. Nichol says : — " Flax will bear a good deal of moisture, and, 
in fact, thrives best in a moist climate. Hence the peculiar suitableness of 
England for its growth; being more generally humid than that of the 
continent, especially in the western counties. Indeed, long-continued drought 
is the chief enemy the flax-grower has to dread." (p. 447.) 

The hot summers of Russia and Egypt cause a dryness and brittleness of 
fibre, and prevent its retaining that elasticity, pliancy and oiliness which cha- 
racterize the flaxes of Belgium, Holland and Ireland. 

In Egypt, though the plant attains great luxuriance in the rich alluvial 
soils of the Nile, yet the fibre does not attain fineness and softness, and, not- 
withstanding the efforts made to improve the culture and preparation, its value 
has not exceeded £44 per ton. 

Culture. — In connection with the climate we may notice peculiarities of 
culture in different countries. 

In Flanders, a great variety of crops are raised, the farms being for the 
most part small ; the majority varying from eight or ten to twenty and 
thirty acres. Every Belgian farmer, whether large or small, grows flax 
sufficient to keep himself and his people employed when not at work on the 

The cultivation of flax in Flanders is conducted with the greatest care. The 
ground is well ploughed, rolled, enriched, with liquid manure, harrowed, and 
when the seed is sown again harrowed in with a light harrow, and the surface 
rolled. The fields when thus accurately prepared display an extreme degree 
of neatness and smoothness. The liquid manure is prepared with considerable 
care. It consists of the urine of cattle in which rape-cake has been dissolved, 
and in which the cleansings of privies from the neighbouring towns and vil- 
lages have been mixed ; and is collected in subterranean vaults of brick work. 
About 2,800 gallons (beer measure) are allowed to the English acre 

In Russia the flax is cultivated with less care, and without any manure in 
the Ukraine. The time of sowing is from the 25th of May to the 10th of 
June, and that of reaping, from the end of August to the end of September. 
The flax is about four months in a state of vegetation. 


In Schenclc's process the temperature of the steep water is kept at 80° to 
90°, but may be increased to that which is favorable to the process of 
fermentation, — for the effects depend upon the destructive power of fermen- 
tation quite as much as in the old process. A great saving of time is effected 
— as not more than seventy-two hours is required for the fine, and about 
ninety-six hours for the coarse qualities; and a more uniform fibre is moreover 

A disadvantage of this process, in comparison with some others, is that 
during fermentation, the same kind of gaseous exhalations are given off- as 
in the ordinary method. These gases have been stated by chemists to consist 
chiefly of carbonic acid and hydrogen in nearly equal parts. Dr. Hodges has 
clearly shown that the fermentation is of a peculiar character, traces only of 
acetic acid being found, while butyric acid is generated in large quantities. 
Other objections have been stated— such as that the fibre was weakened 


■when overheated; and another, that a most offensive matter adhered to the 
straw, and that, in the process of scutching, the scutchers could not bear the 
smell of the irritant dust which flew off. With regard to other objections — 
such as that the yield of fibre would be less, that it would be weakened, and 
that the linen made from it would not bleach properly — a committee of the 
Royal Irish Flax Improvement Society, after carefully conducted experiments, 
reported, first, that the uniformity of temperature had the effect of increasing 
the yield of fibre. With regard to the weakening of the fibre, the committee 
ascertained that the flax steeped in the ordinary way spun to 96 lea yarn, 
and that by Schenck's system to 101 lea yarn. In the second, the cold- 
steeped gave 60 lea, and the hot-steeped 70. The third objection was 
submitted to an extensive bleaching firm, whose evidence in favor of the hot 
water process was very decided. 

We here subjoin Dr. Hodge's observations on his experimental crop, and 
his analysis of the steep-water. He first observes that the crop, having been 
air dried, was removed to the steeping works at Cregagh: 

" It was there placed in stacks, and after some time prepared for steeping. The first 
operation for this purpose is the removal of the valuable bolls or capsules. This, in 
these establishments, where the cost of labour is carefully considered, is usually most 
expeditiously and perfectly effected, by means of a machine composed of two cast-iron 
rollers, to which motion is communicated by a belt from the steam engine. Between 
these the flax is passed, and the capsules bruised so that the seed can be readily shaken 
out. Having been deprived of its bolls by this machine, it was found that the j,110 lbs. 
of flax were reduced to 52 cwt., or 5,824 lbs. 

Of the portions of the plant removed by the seeding machine, 910 lbs. consisted of 
clean seed, 1,036 lbs. of husks, leaves and sand. The loss experienced by the flax in 
steeping was 13 cwt. From the 52 cwt. of seeded straw, the produce of the experimental 
crop, there remained 6 cwt. 1 qr. 2 lbs. of marketable fibre. 

The taste of the steep-water, at first, is rather agreeably acid, but followed by the 
peculiar plant-like taste of the flax. By the addition to the liquid of carbonate of lime, 
its acidity is destroyed. Contrary to what has been stated, in some reports on this 
subject, the liquid, I found, at the conclusion of the process, yields merely a trace of 
acetic acid, and in numerous experiments no trace of the evolution of sulphuretted 
hydrogen could be detected at any stage of the fermentation. When the flax is allowed 
to remain in the vats after the usual time, a new series of changes, and a fresh and rapid 
extrication of gas take place. I have made, during the last three years, numerous 
experiments with respect to the composition of the steep-water, from several establish- 
ments, and also from the common steep-pools, which afforded me some interesting results, 
and satisfied me that the fermentation which is induced by steeping flax in water resem- 
bles the so-called butyric acid fermentation ; merely traces of acetic acid, and invariably 
large quantities of butyric acid having been detected in every case. In fact, the fragrant 
butyric ether, so extensively employed in the preparation of pine-apple rum, and in 
flavoring confectionery, might readily be obtained in large quantities from the stinking 
waters of the flax-pool. 

To ascertain exactly the effect produced by steeping, and the composition of the steep- 
water, I obtained from the works at Cregagh a sample of flax straw unsteeped, a portion 
of steeped straw taken from the same lot, and a gallon of the steep-water taken from the 
vat immediately after the removal of the flax. The composition of the ash obtained by 
burning the extract of the steep-water, and the samples of the straw, is given in the 
table. The spring water employed at the works is moderately hard, indicating, on Dr. 
Clarke's scale, 8 degrees. It was not considered necessary to deduct the ingredients 
supplied in it, as these would add but little to its fertilising value. An imperial gallon 
of the liquid of the vat was found to contain, in grains and tenths: 

Organic matters 136*7 

Inorganic matters 131*4 

Total solid matters 208*1 grains. 



100 parts of each respectively contained: — 


Potash 13-88 

Soda 5-33 

Chloride of Potassium 

Chloride of Sodium 6'47 

Lime 18*86 

Magnesia 4 - 10 

Oxide of Iron 540 

Sulphuric acid 1T16 

Phosphoric acid 9*63 

Carbonic acid 10*37 

Silica 15-23 



Ash of the 


steep water. 

























Ash per cent, in the straw . 3 89 

100 grains of the^ dried extract of the steep-water contained 1'56 nitrogen,=r89 grains 
of ammonia; therefore an imperial gallon would be capable of supplying five grains, and 
a vat, containing 3,000 gallons of water, 2 1-10 lb., worth about Is. 2d. to the farmer; 
while the same amount of liquid, placed on his field, would convey to them about the 
same amount of phosphoric acid. 

By the kindness of the proprietors of the steeping works at Cregagh, who have liber 
ally given me an opportunity of inspecting the books of their establishment, I am 
enabled to give the following statement of the changes which 100 tons of flax undergo 
when treated by Schenck's process. 100 tons of air-dried flax straw yield : — 


1. By seeding — 33 tons of seed and husks, 

leaving of seeded flax 67'00 

2. By steeping — 67 tons of seeded flax 

yield of steeped straw 39 - 50 

3. By scutching — 39| tons of steeped straw 

yield of dressed flax 5*90 

" " of tow and pluckings f T47 


The advantages of Schenck's method of preparation are sufficiently consi- 
derable to ensure its adoption at once in an uncertain climate like that of the 
British Isles. But it remained to be proved whether the process of ferment- 
ation was essential to the separation of the fibre; and whether, if it was got 
rid of, we might not obtain an equally good fibre, avoid the noxious exhala- 
tions, and even utilize the products of the steep-water, which had previously 
been a nuisance. Some are of opinion that this has been done by Watt's 
method of preparing flax. 

In this process the solution of the cementing matters of the flax straw, 
and the separation of the fibre are effected, not by the ordinary methods of 
fermentation, but by exposing the straw to the action of steam, in a chamber 
of peculiar construction, and afterwards subjecting it to pressure, applied by 
means of heavy metal rollers. The first operation consists in placing the 
seeded flax in a chamber formed of plates of cast iron. 

The chamber used measures about twelve feet in length, and is about six 
feet broad, and six feet in depth, and contains about fifteen cwt. of flax. On 
the top is a tank for containing water, also of cast iron, about eighteen inches 
deep, the bottom of which forms the roof of the chamber, and through which 


passes a tube, furnished with a valve. There are two doors in the ends of 
the chambers, through which the flax is introduced, and these, when the 
steam is admitted, are secured by screws. A false bottom, formed of perfo- 
rated iron plates, such as are used in malt-kilns, is raised about six inches 
from the bottom of the chamber ; and, resting on this, there is an upright 
throw-pipe. The chamber being filled with flax, and the doors secured, 
steam is admitted, and when the straw has been thoroughly saturated with 
moisture and softened, a weight is placed upon the valve on the top, so as to 
confine the steam, which, as it strikes against the cold bottom of the water- 
tank forming the roof of the chamber, is condensed, and made to descend in 
streams of distilled water, which dissolve the soluble matters of the softened 
straw, washing them into the lower part of the chamber. The liquid, as it 
accumulates, is conveyed into a reservoir, and employed as food for cattle. 
The analysis of this liquid is given at page 22. 

Towards the conclusion of the process, when nearly all the soluble matters 
have, been removed, the liquid is allowed to collect until it rises above the 
false bottom, and, by placing a weight upon the safety valve, in the roof, the 
pressure of the confined steam causes it to ascend in the throw-pipes, by 
which it is discharged in showers over the straw. The throw-pipes, it may 
be mentioned, are not essential, and in some of the chambers they are net 
used. In their stead, a square iron reservoir is placed on the top of the 
chamber, and communicating with it by a pipe with a stopcock, into which 
the liquid accumulated in the chamber is pumped, and discharged occasion- 
ally over the straw. 

In from twelve to eighteen hours the steaming process is completed, and 
the straw, when withdrawn from the chamber, is immediately subjected in 
small parcels to the successive action of two pair of heavy iron rollers, by 
which it is pressed into flat tape-like bands, and deprived of nearly all the 
moisture contained in it. The longitudinal pressure — this pressure also 
removes a considerable portion of the epidermis, or outer envelope, and 
facilitates the removal of the woody matter in scutching. Each pair of rollers 
used exerts a pressure equal to 10 cwt. 

The after treatment of the pressed straw does not present any remarkable 
difference from the system pursued in the hot-water steeping establishments. 
The straw is secured between rods, and suspended in a drying chamber, 
heated by the waste steam of the engine. The arrangements tor this purpose 
consist of rooms with floors formed of spars. Below this flooring passes a 
pipe conveying steam, by which the air admitted by openings at the bottom 
of the chambers is heated, and made to ascend through the flax. The circu- 
lation of the air is ingeniously effected by a series of revolving heaters kept 
in action below the steam-pipe. 

The following extract from the Report of a Committee of the Royal Flax 
Society gives the results of an experiment made at Messrs. Leadbetter's 
works, Belfast : — 

In this experimental trial, a quantity of flax straw, of ordinary quality, was taken 
from the bulk of the stock at the works, weighing 13f cwt. with the seed on. After 
the removal of the seed, which, on being cleaned thoroughly from the chaff, measured 
3£ imperial bushels, the straw was reduced in weight to 10 cwt. 1 qr. 2 lb. It was 
then placed in the vat, where it was subjected to the steaming process for about eleven 
hours. After steeping, wet rolling, and drying, it weighed 7 cwt. qr. 11 lb. ; and on 
being scutched, the yield was 187 lb. of flax; and of scutching tow, 12 lbs. 6£ oz. fine, 
35 lbs. 3 oz. coarse. The yield of fibre, in the state of good flax, was, therefore, at the 


rate of 13| lb. from the cwt. of straw with seed on ; 18 lb. from the cwt. of straw without 
seed ; 26£ lb. from the cwt. of steeped and dried straw. 

The time occupied in actual labor, in the processes from the seeding of the flax to 
the commencement of the scutching, was 13{- hours, to which, if eleven hours be added 
for the time the flax was in the vat, twenty-four hours would be the time required up 
to this point. The scutching, by four stands, occupied six hours sixteen minutes. 
But, in this statement, the time required for drying is not included, as owing to some 
derangement in the apparatus, no certain estimate could be made of the actual time 
required in that process. It would appear, however, that about thirty-six hours would 
include the time necessary, in a well-organised establishment, to convert flax-straw into 
fibre for the spinner. 

The cost of all these operations in this experiment, leaving out the drying, for the 
reasons noted, appeared to be under £10 per ton of clean fibre for labor, exclusive of 
general expenses. 

A portion of the fibre was sent to two spinning mills to be hackled, and to have a 
value put upon it. The valuation of the samples varied from £56 to £70 per ton, 
according to the quality of the stricks of fibre sent, and the yield on the hackle was 
considered quite satisfactory. 

Appended to this report is a note of the time occupied in the different processes 
during the experiment, and of the number of persons employed in each. 

It is to be hoped that so promising a plan may, on more extended experience, be 
found fully to warrant the high anticipation formed from what is already known con- 
cerning it. 

(Signed on behalf of the Committee) 

Richard Niven, Chairman. 

Belfast, 3rd Nov., 1852. 

Appendix. — Note of the time occupied, and of the number of persons employed in 
each of the processes witnessed by the Committee, on the experimental trial of Mr. 
Watt's system of preparing flax fibre. 

No. of Persons employed. Time occupied. 

Men - annoys. Hours - Minutes " 

Seeding 4 8 1 15 

Placing in vat 3 4 15 

Cleaning seed 1 3 

Taking; out of vat 2 3 30 

Wet-rolling and putting in drying room 116 2 20 

Rolling for scutching 11 1 8 • 

Striking for do 7 4 47 

Total..... 11 49 13 15 

Scutching 4 6 16 


At a meeting of the Chemico- Agricultural Society of Ulster, Dr. Hodges 
gave an analysis of the liquid obtained in Watt's patent flax process, and an 
account of the new process of preparing; flax, patented by Messrs. Watt and 
Leadbetter, which he said offered the only practical method of economizing 
the matters which are separated from the flax plant in its preparation for the 
manufacturer, which had hitherto been proposed. The liquid which remains 
in the flax-vats employed in the new process possessed none of the disagree- 
able qualities of the ordinary steep-waters. It was free from smell, and in 
taste and color somewhat resembled an infusion of senna leaves. It was, in 
fact, a strong tea, containing, unchanged by fermentation or putrefaction, 
the soluble matters of the stem of the flax plant. It was at the present time 
advantageously used at Messrs. Leadbetter's works in feeding pigs. As it 
was desirable to ascertain the exact composition of this liquid and its nutri- 
tive value ? he had procured a sample of it from the Bedford Street Works^. 


and had it submitted tc chemical examination. The following were the 
results. One gallon evaporated to dryness gave : 

Of organic matters 353*97 grains. 

Of earthy and saline matters 161*49 " 

Total amount of solid matter 51 5*46 " 

The organic matter afforded, on analysis, 1479 grains of nitrogen. 

The earthy and saline matters were found to possess the following com- 
position : — 


Per cent. In a gallon. 

Potash 27*17 44*63 grains. 

Soda 3*18 5*12 " 

Chloride of sodium 21*58 34*61 " 

Lime 5*91 9*49 

Magnesia 4*60 7*40 " 

Oxide of iron 0*83 1*33 

Sulphuric acid 15*64 25*11 

Phosphoric acid 5*66 9*01 

Carbonic acid 1 2*43 1996 " 

Silica 3*00 4*83 " 

100*00 161*49 " 

Dr. Hodges stated that the flax liquid possessed considerable feeding quali- 
ties ) and Mr. Leadbetter, in reply to his enquiry, said that it had not been 
found to exhibit any purgative effect; the pigs at his works received it mixed 
with turnips, and the husks of the flax, and were in a thriving fattening 

The vat liquid, Dr. Hodges observed, could be drawn off in a more concen- 
trated form than the sample examined, and it would be easy for the manu- 
facturer, by employing a hydrometer, to supply it of uniform strength. 


The shoves, or refuse woody matters which are separated in scutching flax, 
are at present employed in the steeping works as fuel. Dr. Hodges, in the 
course of the extended investigation of the flax plant, in which he was 
engaged, found that the ash which remains on the incineration of these 
matters had the following composition, and might, therefore, advantageously 
be economized for use as manure. 100 parts of ash afford : — 

Potash 7*73 

Soda 5*91 

Chloride of sodium 1*78 

Lime 2P*15 

Magnesia 5*46 

Oxide of iron 5*60 

Sulphuric acid 6*50 

Phosphoric acid 1043 

Carbonic acid 20* 10 

Silica 16*00 

1000 lb. of shoves yield, on combustion, 19£ lb. of ash. 

Mr. C. Fane, referring to the difficulties experienced in the lermentative 
processes, has given a graphic account of another method by which the fibre of 


the flax, as do doubt of other plants, may easily be separated. Subjecting 
the wet fibres to heavy pressure is now adopted in most of the improved 

" At this juncture, an English gentleman, a Mr. Pownall, endeavoring to work out 
Mr. Claussen's idea of obtaining from flax a fibre that would spin on cotton machinery, 
made a most, valuable discovery, as to the preparing flax for the common linen purposes, 
which was this, that if the flax straw, when taken out of the water 'in which it had been 
steeped and fermented, were instantly, and before drying, subjected to severe pressure, 
and a stream of cold water, the pressure would press out, and the water would wash 
away almost all the gluten remaining in the plant not removed by the fermentation. 

It is impossible to over-estimate the value of this discovery. The grand difficulty in 
the management of the flax plant had always been the difficulty of hitting the happy 
mean between over-fermenting and under-fermentmg the straw. If the straw were not 
fermented enough, the gluten was not sufficiently discharged, and then the woody parts 
of the plant stuck to the fibre so strongly, that nothing short of violent blows of the 
scutching instrument would remove it, and violent blows broke much of the fibre into 
short lengths, called tow, of little or no value. On the other hand, if the straw were 
fermented too much, then the gluten was, indeed, sufficiently discharged, and moderate 
blows sufficed to remove the woody matter ; but in that case the fibre was weakened, 
and the blows, moderate as they were, again broke the fibre into tow. In either case 
the yield of valuable fibre was unsatisfactory, and the reed and quality deteriorated ; 
and it was only in those cases where the exercise of the greatest care and judgment 
had enabled the steeper to trim most happily between fermenting too much and ferment- 
ing too little, that a satisfactory yield of fibre was obtained. Mr. Pownall's discovery at 
once triumphed over this hitherto almost insuperable difficulty, because it enabled him 
to stop short in the process of fermentation before he arrived at the point of danger, and 
yet remove the gluten even more effectually than excessive fermentation had previously 
done ; from which there resulted the following advantages: — 

" 1st. The squeezing and washing so completely cleansed the fermented straw, that 
the objection to Schenck's hot-water system, arising from the putrid matter re-adhering 
to the straw, and flying off from the straw in dust in scutching; at once disappeared ; 
and hence the mills erected for hot-water steeping resumed work, and no impediment 
now exists to steeping being carried on all the year round. 

" 2nd. Fermentation need never be carried beyond the perfectly safe point, ami hence 
the fibre is not weakened. 

" 3rd. The woody matter is easily removed by moderate blows of the scutching 
instrument, because the sticky matter no longer impedes the operation, and hence the 
yield of fibre is much greater. 

" 4th. The fibre obtained is of a singularly soft and pliable character, and is much 
preferred by the spinner. 

" 5th. The subsequent process of bleaching is greatly facilitated, because it is the 
gluten which remains in the fibre which resists the action of bleaching ingredients, 
and under Mr. Pownall's process the gluten is effectually removed. 

"The use is spreading more and more everyday, and the results are universally 
acknowledged as most satisfactory. The process adds from £10 to £30 to the value of 
the ton of flax, according as the raw material is of inferior or superior quality ; and the 
expense is the merest trifle." 

These methods of preparing the fibre from flax stems which have been 
dried and stacked, afford considerable advantages, as the seed becomes more 
ripe, and the farmer can choose a leisure time for the preparation of his flax : 
or, better, he may confine his attention to growing the flax, and then send it 
for careful preparation to the factory or rettory. 


With the above methods of separating flax which has been stacked, we 
may contrast that of steeping the stems when green, and which, when the 

* The steeping of hemp when in a green state was strongly recommended by the 
Abbe Brulles ; and the natives of India insist upon its being the best mode for Sunn. 


quantity is small and can be worked up at once, would appear to be the most 
advantageous. M. Dufremont, cultivator a Hem (department du Nord), 
found that when the flax was used green, the steeping; only required from 
six to seven days ; and that six days' grassing gave the flax a finer color than 
could be obtained by any other means. It was dried and ready for scutching 
in three weeks ; whereas the ordinary time in the district averaged from a 
year to a year and a half. He found also that it yielded 5 per cent, more 
fibre, which was worth fully 10 per cent, more money in the market. The 
flax was pulled before it was quite ripe, the seed bolls removed by rippling, 
and the straw immediately placed in the pits. The seed, however, was 
reduced about two francs per hectolitre in value. 

The practice of steeping green is carried on to a large extent in the Waes 
District, in Belgium. 

About Courtrai, in Belgium, the flax is steeped in the river Lys, which 
contains a remarkably pure and suitable water. In Flanders District (Pays 
de Waes) the flax is watered immediately after rippling in the manner now 
generally recommended, and the water used is allowed to become partially 
stagnant in the pools previous to the immersion of the plant. 

It certainly is a strange fact, that the fermentation proceeds quite success- 
fully in a running stream of fresh water; and it is evident, therefore, the 
process must go on in the juices and gummy matter, which connect the 
woody stem to the pure fibre of the plant, as the water itself has not time to 
become decomposed in passing through the bundles. 

It is a common practice to run off the water from the steep-holes into the 
stream, and afterwards take out the flax. This system is contrary to all cor- 
rect acknowledged principles of agricultural economy. 

In the first place, the " flax water" so lost is excellent liquid manure, and 
its effects can be clearly traced on meadow land, where the plant has been 
spread for " grassing" immediately after removal from the pool. This liquid 
ought therefore to be preserved and carted in large barrels over the grass 
fields adjoining, or thrown over by means of hose, on Mr. Mechi's plan. In 
the next place, by running off the water, all the scum and dirt in the pool 
are allowed to settle among the flax plants, and the bundles are pressed 
against the sides and bottom of the hole, where they are sure to become soiled 
and dirtied, thus injuring the color and quality of the fibre. Lastly, the 
noxious fluid passing into the stream at a time when the river is at the 
lowest summer level, not only corrupts the water, and renders it unfit for 
domestic use, but poisons the fish therein — an offence punishable by law. 


The action of water and the production of fermentation may truly be con- 
sidered chemical operations; but the term is usually applied to other processes, 
in which the action of soap, of acids, or of caustic or of carbonated alkalies, 
or of some salts, is employed to effect the separation of the fibres from each 
other, as well as from the cellular tissue and accompanying glutinous secre- 
tions. The natives of India have long been in the habit of bleaching their 
muslins by boiling them in a ley of carbonate of soda, and then washing 
them in a weak solution of citric acid, obtained from the juice of limes or of 
lemons. So in other parts they boil the bast of certain plants in a ley of 
wood-ashe^, in order to facilitate the separation of the fibres. Some of the 


chemical methods which have been invented in Europe are similar to these. 
In the " Jury Report" of Class IV., by Prof. E. Solly, for the Exhibition 
of 1851, we have an account of the old German process called " Molkenrost," 
sometimes used in preparing the finer sorts of flax. This was steeped for four 
or five days in a warm mixture of milk and water, and thus the desired degree 
of fermentation in the flax stems was produced. This is distinct from the 
more modern process in which linen was boiled by the Dutch in a weak alka- 
line ley, and subsequently treated with sour buttermilk, of which no doubt 
the lactic acid was useful in removing the alkali, as well as in dissolving some 
of the impurities of the fibre, and thus was nearly identical with the Indian 
process of bleaching. Subsequently, salt of sorrel (that is, an oxalate of pot- 
ash, or the same salt which is so abundant in the leaves of the gram cicer 
arietinum), and sulphuric and muriatic acids were employed, but were found 
to be too costly. The careful experiments of Hermbstaedt, at the beginning 
of this century, threw much light on the chemical principles involved in, and 
on the influence of temperature on the separation of the fibre of flax. 

These chemical processes have again attracted much attention, since the 
process patented by M. Claussen has shown how much the nature and appear- 
ance of fibre may be changed by the action of such agents. But this, like 
many other inventions, has many points of similarity with what had been 
done long before, without attracting much attention. Of it we have the fol- 
lowing account in the above "Jury Report/' p. 97 : 

"This process (patented August, 1850) consists essentially in boiling the cut and 
crushed stems of the flax, hemp, or other plant, in a dilute solution of caustic soda, con- 
taining about one two-thousandth part of alkali. The fibrous matter is then removed, 
and plunged into a bath of dilute sulphuric acid, consisting of one five-hundreth part of 
acid, in which it is boiled for about an hour. It is next transferred into a solution, con- 
taining about ten per cent, of carbonate of soda ; and, lastly, when it has remained in 
the latter for an hour, it is plunged into a weak solution of sulphuric acid, consisting of 
one part of acid to two hundred or five hundred parts of water; in this it is left for 
about half-an-hour, and the process is completed. The effect of these several processes 
is to divide and split up the fibre in a most remarkable manner, so as completely to alter 
its character. Flax thus treated is converted into a substance very nearly resembling 

The idea of modifying the fibre of flax and hemp, so as to convert it into a 
kind of cotton, is by no means new. In 1747, it was proposed to convert 
flax into cotton by boiling it in a solution of caustic potash, and subsequently 
washing it with soap. In 1775, considerable quantities of refuse flax and 
hemp were converted into flax cotton by Lady Moira, with the aid of T. B. 
Bailey, of Hope, near Manchester. It appears that the fibre was boiled in an 
alkaline ley, or a solution of kelp, containing carbonate of soda, and subse- 
quently scoured. The result of this was, that " the fibres seem to be set at 
liberty from each other," after which it may be " carded on cotton cards." 
It appears that at this time "flax cotton" was made and sold at three pence a 
pound. Some of it was spun into cloth for gowns, and also for waistcoats ; 
but her ladyship complains that the spinners were hostile to the discovery, for 
fear of its injuring the cotton trade, and the poor of the North of Ireland, to 
whom it was supposed it would be beneficial, were indifferent about the merits 
of the invention. Specimens of the flax cotton, and of the fabrics woven from 
it, are still preserved in the Museum of the Society of Arts. 

Several attempts were subsequently made in Germany to convert, with the 
action of alkaline solutions, flax into a fibre resembling cotton, which could 
be used, either alone or together with cotton, in the manufacture of cotton 


goods. But there, as in Ireland, the manufacturers probably set themselves 
against the introduction of flax cotton, and the work-people determined not 
to use the new material. The matter was subsequently investigated by 
Berthollet, by Gay-Lussac, and by Giobert, who employed alternately steep- 
ing? in hot solutions of soap, alkali, and sulphuric and muriatic acid; and 
Berthollet observes that equally fine cotton is obtained from the commonest 
refuse tow as from the best flax (vide Jury Report, p. 98). More recently, 
in 1842, M. Rouchon, of l'Ecole Polytechnique, at Paris, has devised a method 
for preparing flax by means of immersion in a weak acid solution for a short 
period, and then placing it in a mass kept moist by occasional waterings. 
These are repeated daily until the desired effect is produced. The flax is kept 
tied up in small bundles, and a man and a boy could attend to two tons per day. 

It is sometimes more than the farmer can manage himself, with all his 
other complicated affairs, to grow flax, and then to prepare it to a proper 
state to be sold to the spinner. For all these after-processes, too, he has 
often to educate a set of men and women to execute a series of nice and 
catching work, which they may have never seen done, and of which they 
have not the slightest idea. 

• The French and Belgian flax growers are relieved from the whole of the 
troublesome burden which the subsequent treatment of the crop entails. It 
is the custom there for persons called liniers, or flax factors, to buy the flax 
of the farmer as it stands in the field. After the weeding is completed^ the 
farmer has nothing more to do with the crop, but to sell it and to cart it to 
the merchant after it is pulled. The linier pays for the pulling, thrashes the 
flax, and steeps it himself. The scutchers employed by the liniers are paid 
by him fur their tusk at the rate of four sous, or two pence, the kilo, or about 
two pounds and a half weight; and in that way the flax is delivered either 
to private parties, or to flax mills, to be combed. It is the absence of the 
intermediate tradesman, who acts as a purchaser and preparer of flax, which 
is one main difficulty attending its cultivation in this country. 

The flax growers of the principal countries of Europe declare that this plant 
produces seed which is less and less vigorous from year to year, unless the 
stock of grain is renewed by being brought from distant places of growth. 
The usual Flemish practice is to change the seed by a fresh importation from 
Riga every two years; others have thought that every three years would be 
sufficient to obtain a new supply from Russia; but it is found if a change be 
but made, it is by no means a matter of necessity that the seed should be of 
Russian growth. The French farmers, although preferring Riga seed, often 
make as interchange between village and village. In such cases they find 
their flax crops succeed to their perfect satisfaction. 

Good flax seed should be smooth, slippery, and should sink in water; it 
should taste sweet, when chewed, and being broken should appear of a light 
yellowish-green color, and very oily. A good means of testing various samples 
of seed is to weigh equal measured quantities against each other.^ Experi- 
enced persons examine the seed by taking a handful of it, and letting it run 
out between their forefinger and thumb, in order to be able to observe it closely 
sidewise, and to be better able to judge of its plumpness and weight. Others 
moisten their forefinger, and dip it into the sample of seed, which sticks to it; 
they are thus able to examine each grain separately, and so form an opinion 
of its purity and goodness. Good seed should be very even in its quality, 
and free from mixture with the smaller seeds of weeds. Most growers prefer 


to sow new seed, but, unlike hemp seed, linseed preserves its vitality for 
several years. 

A writer thus describes the process of flax-weeding, from personal obser- 
vation : 

" Suppose that you had lost a single valuable pearl on the smooth-shaven grass plot 
before your door. To find it, a good plan would be to get half-a-dozen sharp-eyed women 
and children to go down on their knees side by side, as close together as they could 
conveniently work, and to make them creep steadily forward in a rank, like so many 
soldiers, searching as they advanced for the lost pearl, between every single blade of 
grass. This is exactly the way in which flax is weeded, docks, charlock and thistles 
being the objects of search, instead of pearls and rubies. While passing through 
Belgium in spring, I used to fancy that if a peasant, after retiring to rest, remembered 
that he had passed over one sprouting weed in his new-sown flax, he would be unable to 
sleep upon his mattress, and would get up in the middle of the night, to search for it by 
moonlight. To unprofessional eyes, the plant looks too delicate to bear the pressure of 
this inquisitive crowd ; but its natural elasticity raises it again ; and to help it, it is the 
custom for the weeders to advance against the wind, in order that the welcome breeze 
may aid the prostrate flax to hold up its head in the world once more." 

During the blossoming period, in France and Belgium, the linier, or "flax 
man/' will arrive, inspect the crop carefully, and make his bargain with the 
farmer to take it off his hands. The flax man undertakes all the subsequent 
manipulation of the flax, and the French farmer's anxieties cease exactly at 
the moment when, in consequence of his inexperience, the English flax- 
grower's Only begin. 

The signs of the fitness of the flax for pulling, are beat learned by actual 
inspection and practice. Mr. Henderson states : — 

" I have found the test recommended by Mr. Boss (a Dutchman), to ascertain the 
degree of ripeness that gives the best produce, with the finest fibre, perfect. . It is this: 
Try the flax every day, when approaching ripeness, by cutting the ripest capsule, on an 
average stock, across (horizontally) ; and when the seeds have changed from the white, 
milky substance, which they first show, to a greenish color, pretty firm, then is the time 
to pull. The old prejudice in favor of much ripening is most injurious, even as regards 
quantity; and the usual test of the stalk stripping at the root and turning yellow, should 
not be depended upon. Where there is one man that pulls too green, five hundred over- 
ripen. I use the Dutch method of pulling, say, catching the flax close to the bolls ; this 
allows the shortest of the flax to escape. With the next handful, the puller draws the 
short flax, and so keeps the long and the short each by itself, to be steeped in separate 
ponds, ft is most essential to keep the flax even at the root end, and this cannot be 
done without time and care ; but it can be done, and should always be done." 

Without steeping, flax would be useless for textile purposes. By dew- 
retting the quality of the sample i3 seriously injured. The old-fashioned plan 
of steeping answers better on the whole than any other mode that has been 
discovered. But flax-steeping, it must be confessed, has many disadvantages 
attending it. In the first place, it is an offensive process. The smell which 
the ditches and ponds occasionally emit, is all but unbearable ; so also is the 
odour of the flax when taken out of the water. The water wherein flax has 
been steeped, if let out at once into a stream, is fatal to the fish. Secondly, 
many farms, which are most suitable for flax- growing, are deficient in the 
quantity of water necessary for steeping. Here again we see the use of the 
liniers or flax-men. 

It will thus be seen that several distinct conditions require to be combined, 
in order to adapt any one locality for the successful cultivation and prepara- 
tion of flax, if it be necessary for the farmer himself to undertake the mani- 
pulation of the flax he grows ; and they ought not to be overlooked by those 


who are desirous of introducing a new and profitable branch of agriculture 
into their own neighbourhood. Attempts that are made without due consid- 
eration of each one of these conditions, will only lead to disappointment. 


This is done by the hand-scutch, or in the scutch-mill ; after the flax has 
been passed through the break. 

The scutching-board is an upright plank, fifty-one inches high, fourteen 
broad, and with a uniform thickness of three-quarters of an inch throughout, 
firmly fixed in a solid block of wood. At the height of thirty-seven and a 
half inches from the foot, is a horizontal slit, an inch and a half broad. With 
his left hand the scutcher introduces into the slit a handful of broken flax, so 
that it hangs down on the side of the scutching-board. With his right hand 
he scrapes and chops at the flax with a tool called a scutch. A leather strap, 
an inch in breadth, stretches between two low posts, at the height of nineteen 
inches from the ground, just before the workman's legs, at the lower part of 
the scutching-board, iu order that he may not bark his shins while scutchin^ 
the flax. The strap also, by its elasticity, causes the blow to rebound, and so 
aids the laborer in continuing his work. By these means, and by turning it 
about, the woody refuse is got rid of, and little else but the pure fibre remains. 

The scutch itself is a tool whose form varies considerably in different coun- 
tries. The most approved French scutch consists of three parts— the handle, 
made of light willow-wood; the table, made of the heart of walnut-tree; and 
the tail, made of the branch of walnut-tree. The latter portion is the great 
peculiarity of the implement, serving to give impetus to the blow, and also to 
steady the course of the scutch in its descent through the air, as the feather 
steadies the course of an arrow. The extreme length of the scutch, from the 
end of the handle to the tip of the tail, is twenty-four inches and a quarter. 
The greatest thickness of the tail at the upper part is a trifle more than an 
eighth of an inch. The table is considerably thinner. The upper part of the 
table is as thick as a halfpenny piece; the cutting edge or lower part as thick 
as a penny piece. 

French scutchers, at two pence the kilo (short for kilogramme, and equal 
to 2,206 English pounds avoirdupois), can earn from eight pence to twenty 
pence a day, according to their skill, and the quality of the flax they have to 
do with. 

There are various forms in which flax is delivered to the spinner. They 
agree in one point, namely, in keeping the fibre in tightly bound handfuls, 
each of a fixed and definite weight, twisted in a convenient square form 
according to the custom of the locality, and in uniting those handfuls into' 
bales, containing a stipulated number, and, therefore, weighing a stipulated 
amount. In the Pas de Calais scutched flax is always delivered in the shape 
of two hi, handfuls (about five pounds and a half united), clapped together; 
and the purchaser may obtain these by the half-score, score, hundred or 

One mode of making up a bale of flax is to begin by taking two handfuls 
of fibre, ready twisted into shape, and clapping them together, head and tail 
in an opposite direction, and going on in the same way, placing the handfuls 
alternately, to make them lie as close together as possible, till the determined 


number of haodfuls is packed ; the whole is then bound with three cords 
* passing round the middle, and not far from the two ends. 

In packing flax, the producer should be careful to avoid putting samples of 
a different quality into the same bale; as, besides the possibility of its bein^ 
looked upon as a species of fraud, it is always better to sell each quality sepa- 
rately for what it is worth, than to endeavor to obtain a mean or medium price 
c for the whole, which will always turn out lower than the mean of the. lowest 
s and the highest prices. The British practice is to deliver flax in stones weight 

I To obviate the objection which many land-owners have made to the flax 
crop, on account of its returning nothing to the land, and also to increase the 
quantity of fat cattle sent to market, Mr. Warnes conceived the idea of apply- 
ing linseed to the maintenance and finishing off of the live stock usually kept 
on a farm. His object had reference more to the fattening than to the rearing, 
of cattle, and to proving that double or even triple the usual number may be 
profitably returned, through the medium of linseed compound, box feeding 
and summer grazing. The system of feeding cattle in boxes had been long 
t partially practised in various parts of the kingdom, and the growth of flax 
f from time immemorial. The fattening of cattle with linseed was in full 
E operation by the Hindoos fifteen hundred years ago; and in modern" times in 
t England, particularly in Norfolk, repeated attempts were made by the most 
o expert graziers to establish the use of linseed. Summer feeding also, in stalls 
or houses, has been long practised on the continent. To Sir Edward Stracey's 
experiments in boiling grain, Mr. Warnes added the linseed infusion, and thus 
ii produced his " incomparable cattle compound/' (See his book.) 

The Societe Liniere of Brussels, in its printed recommendations, states: — 

m " Above all things, the rotation of crops must be scrupulously observed. If seven or 
eight years be allowed to elapse before again sowing flax in the same field, it is certain 
that there will be a good crop; but the less the interval between the two crops, the less 

^ is the second to be calculated on, either for quality or weight." 



ri In the scutching mills of the present day, instead of the arm of the man, a 
a) horizontal shaft is used, with wooden blades attached, revolving and acting on 
8 the flax vertically. The process of threshing by the mallet, in the hand 
Jj, operation, is performed now in the mills by passing the flax between a set of 
rollers, which bruise it so completely as to render much more easy the after- 
separation of the straw. 

oj The Trustees of the Linen Manufacture, prior to A.D. 1828, directed great 
di attention to improvements in the scutching process ; and of late years Her 
a< Majesty's Government have shown a similar laudable anxiety to encourage 
tl the erection of superior mills. 

0( In many parts of England and Ireland the want of flax-cleaning machinery, 
" ( convenient to the farmsteads, is very much felt. The scutching is always 
m rather an expensive operation, even in the North of Ireland; and in remote 
< 1 1 districts, where heavy carriage is required to a distant mill, the agriculturist 
* l is often much embarrassed. All large proprietors, or, where there are not 
such, the local farming associations, ought certainly to see that every district 
in capable of growing flax is provided with a good scutching mill. 

The Land Improvement Acts give power to the Commissioners of Public 
P 1 Works to lend money, on favorable terms, to needy proprietors, for the erec- 


tion of scutch mills in Ireland. The estimated expense of the building, for 
containing about twelve stands for scutching, as sanctioned by the Office of 
Public Works, under Act 15 & 16 Vic. cap. 34, is £88 18*., or in two stories, 
£95 6s. To this must be added the cost of the machinery, say a small 
water-wheel and gearing, with the shaft and blades attached, stocks and 
adjoining woodwork, and a set of rollers. The amount will vary very much, 
according to circumstances, and in proportion to the number of stands erected. 
A small mill with four stands would cost for this machinery about £60, while 
one with twelve stands would amount to £150, so that the relative costs would 
be approximately, 

Small mill, complete £104 

Large do. do 238 

The figures are in sterling. 

An improvement lately introduced and found of much service, is the adop- 
tion of stocks so arranged as to spring in the operation of scutching, and thus 
prevent the flax from being injured by too severe action from the blades. 

By these spring-stocks, combined with flat, projecting spring-rings, or 
wheels, in the shaft, the action on the flax can be so nicely adjusted, as to 
apply extra work to the fibre requiring such, and to save from useless waste 
any that is easily cleaned. 

Except in retteries like Schenck's or Watt's, the adoption of steam power 
for scutching is not suitable, for various reasons. The first outlay is too great, 
and the expense of working the engine too heavy. 

The scutching of flax, including attendance of girls or boys, and carriage 
to and from the mill, costs about Id. per lb. Now, the fibre is afterwards 
often sold for 6d. per lb. ; so that the cleaning amounts to one-sixth, or 16| 
per cent, of the marketable value ! Of course, some flax will sell at a much 
higher rate than Qd. per lb. ; but, taking even the extra price of $d. per lb., 
the cost of scutching will be 12£ per cent. 

Some very ingenious inventions have been patented in England, to facilitate 
and improve the cleaning operation. Among them may be mentioned that of 
Robert Plummer, Esq., of Newcastle-on-Tyne ; McBride's machine, for the 
working of which no skilled workmen are needed ; Wilson's machine, which 
is a medium between the hand-scutching and the ordinary flax mill ; and the 
patent machine of the Messrs. Rowan, Belfast, Ireland, which may be suita- 
ble for districts where ordinary scutching mills are not to be found. 


The operation of scutching renders the flax fit for market, and the farmer 
now acts with it as with any other crop. The principal markets for the Cana- 
dian farmer are, for fine qualities, Belfast, and for coarser, Dundee. There is 
also a home market for coarse qualities. 

Flax fibre is injured by the owner keeping it too damp, in order to make it 
weigh well in the scale. Like all dodges, this is short-sighted policy, as the 
buyer generally detects, and offers a proportionately lower price. It is not, 
however, injurious to have a little damp. 

The first process in the spinning mill is the rough sorting, so as to suit the 
different kinds of yarn to be made. The fine fibre is then passed to the cut- 
ting machine, which cuts off" the ends, and leaves the prime centre part for 
the best yarn. The next process is "hackling," the object of which is to 


clean the fibre further, by combing it, as it were. A large quantity of refuse 
called " tow " is taken off here. After being hackled, the flax goes to the 
sorting and dressing room, where it is arranged for the next process, called 
"drawing;" thence to the roving-frame, where it is wound on large spools 
or bobbins, and made ready for the spinning. 

Flax can be spun dry, like cotton ; but being a much stronger and firmer 
fibre, much less can be taken out of it in that way than when hot water is 
used. Probably fibre which, when spun dry, would produce only 20 leas 
yarn, would, when wetted, spin up to 70 leas or more, and thus prove much 
more remunerative. 

The "spinning-jenny" is so well-known that no description is required, 
so we will follow the small spools of yarn into the reeling room. Here they 
are unwound and measured on the reels : 60,000 yards make a bundle, which 
is subdivided into hanks and cuts. 

Each hank contains 12 cuts or leas, and each cut 300 yards ; consequently 
16f hanks are equal to a bundle. These bundles are tied up in bunches of 
three, six, nine or twelve, according to the fineness and quality. After being 
carefully dried by steam in lofts, the yarn is ready for sale. 

.The finest spun for commercial purposes is about 340 leas of 300 yards 
each to 1 lb. weight. The coarsest spun out of pure flax is about 20 leas to 
the pound. 

The "tow" thrown off in the hackling process is not allowed to go to 
waste : it is collected in bags, shaken out by a special machine, and then 
undergoes a most elaborate "carding" or combing process, ending in being- 
reduced to a large ribbon, ready fur "drawing" and spinning, as already 
described. This operation is very ingenious, and is a triumph of mechanical 

The yarn from tow is used for making coarse articles; it has a peculiar 
softness, which renders it very suitable for towelling, being pleasant to the 
skin, and an excellent absorber of moisture. 

Some spinners sell all the yarn they produce in the home market; others 
have a large export demand. Some make the yarns into linens, bleach them, 
and become regular linen merchants; others have power-loom factories, and 
sell the linens in the brown state, after being manufactured on the spot. 

People talk of mills by the number of spindles they contain. Less than 
4,000 will not pay, and some have as many as 20,000. One enormous single 
mill (York-street Flax Spinning Company, Belfast) has nearly 30,000 spin- 
dles ; value, with buildings, say £90,000. 


Closely allied to yarn is thread. The fibre for heavy, strong thread-yarn, 
used by shoemakers, is spun with a very long reach, and without going 
through water. The only damp imparted to it is from a roller it passes over, 
which is kept moist with cold water. This thread-yarn does not receive any 
other twisting by machinery ; the shoemakers do this for themselves by hand. 

From the ordinary hot water spinning frame, the yarn for tailor's thread 
proceeds to the twisting frame. 

Besides the strong thread-yarn for shoemakers, a very substantial article is 
made for fishing-nets, called " gilling thread." Large quantities of this are 
used for the Newfoundland fisheries. Almost all threads get at least one boil 


In soda-ley, to purify them. The shoemaker's and the gilling-net threads are 
put up in nice little balls, of two ounces each, or one ounce, as may be ordered 
by the purchaser. Owing to the clearness of flax, a good deal of Italian hemp 
has been used in making coarse yarns for thread. 

One of the largest firms in this branch of trade, is that of the Messrs. 
Barbour & Sons, of Lisburn, Ireland. 

The flax and hemp fibres have so much tenacity, combined with pliability, 
that wherever great strength is required they have no successful competitors. 
In fine-bleached sewing thread, however, cotton has very much interfered with 
flax of late, as the manufacture of cotton, thread has been immensely improved ; 
and the white colour so easily obtained in that fibre is with much difficulty 
approached in linen thread. 


Eighty years ago, Dr. Cartwright applied the principle of power to cotton 
weaving; and since then, by a succession of improvements, the power-loom 
has attained great perfection. 

Some years ago it was thought almost impossible to manage flax yarn in a 
power-loom; but gradually, by perseverance and skill, the difficulties have 
been removed in a very great degree ; and excellent goods, 10°° to 16°° in 
fineness, are now turned out, equal, if not superior, to the production of the 
hand-loom. The only point that appears yet in favor of the hand-loom is the 
selvage or edge in heavy goods; yet even here the improvements of mechan- 
ism go on steadily, and are sure to triumph in the end. 

There are two ways of preparing yarn for weaving by power. The first 
plan is to send it to the factory direct, without any special preparation ; the 
other is to cleanse it by boiling, as is done for the hand-looms. The second 
treatment is necessary in first-class heavy bleaching goods, as the green, 
unprepared yarn reduces very much in the bleaching process. 

The warp yarns in the warping machines are passed through a paste made 
from Carrigeen moss,* or some such substance, and afterwards nicely brushed : 
this prevents the weft catching on the warp, and permits it to slip along more 

The warp is again restored to a roller, and then is ready for the power-loom. 

Meantime the weft yarn received from the mill has been removed by machi- 
nery from the spinning bobbins, and is forwarded in this state to the girl in 
charge of the loom. She places the yarn in the shuttle, and starts the loom. 
Perhaps the weft yarn breaks after crossing two or three times; and if the 
girl is not watching, you think the loom will go on trying to weave. No such 
thing: though not endowed with animal life, it shows in its clever mechanism 
the intelligence of man. 

* This moss is, strictly speaking, a kind of sea-weed or algae ; its botonical name is 
chondrus orispus. It is collected in considerable quantities on the coasts of Ireland. It 
is first bleached and dried by exposure to the atmosphere, and in' this state is sold. 
When boiled, it forms a highly gelatinous substance, like isinglass or Iceland moss. If 
linen power-looms continue to increase in numbers, as they are doing at present, several 
thousand pounds worth of this algae will be required each year for the yarn dressing 
described. We sometimes hear of the poor Irish peasants devouring sea-weed, to miti- 
gate the pangs of hunger; but it is not perhaps generally known that this Carrigeen, 
boiled with a little milk, makes a most nourishing jelly, and when nicely prepared, forms 
a blancmange fit for any table. 



A weaver, named Bullick, invented a peculiar kind of catch-wheel, with a 
lever ending in a fork, which is arranged so that the weft yarn must gently 
touch it in passing. If it fail to do so, the catch-wheel stops the loom ! 

It is interesting to watch the various motions in the machinery of a power- 
loom ; — the roller gently pulling on the cloth as it is made ; the sleigh driving 
tight home the weft which the little shuttle slips in between the divided yarns 
of the warp; the headles raising the alternate sets of yarn to receive the next 
shot of weft; the striker, which represents the weaver's arm, at regular inter- 
vals propelling the shuttle by a blow across to the other side of the loom — a 
regular game of battledoor and shuttlecock. All these actions going on with 
each loom, and hundreds of looms in the same building, causing a din resem- 
bling the crash of battle. In this peaceful strife, however, no blood is shed, 
but food and raiment are^earned by willing hands for themselves and the 
little hungry mouths at home. 

The cost of a power-loom for cotton is £10; that for linen is about £14. 
To this sum has to be added the driving or motive power, and the cost of the 
buildings, each nearly equal amounts, making the total cost of a good sized 
factory about £42 sterling a loom. 

The weaving of damasks is still carried on in the Jacquard loom.* The 
series of cards, perforated with numerous apertures, are the means of giving 
the pattern to the cloth. Some expensively mounted looms will cost as high 
as £200. The arranging of patterns and the placing of the cards requires 
considerable skill, and is almost a special business of itself. 

Linen cloth is regulated as to fineness by different scales. The ordinary 
scale is 40 inches, and according to the number of threads used in that space 
the fineness is determined. However, by one of those curious perversities so 
common in trade names, the linen is called, not by the actual number of 
threads in the 40 inches, but by the number of bars or reeds through which 
the warp passes. Now, the warp threads do not go through these reeds 
singly, but two through each opening; consequently a web called a 10°° is in 
reality a 20°°; that is, there are 2,000 yarns in 40 inches wide of the cloth 
before it receives the weft. 

In the weaving, the width of 40 inches is reduced to 38, and in the bleach- 
ing process this is generally again reduced to 36. 

Let us, for example, take a piece of so-called yard-wide brown cloth, styled 
a 15°°, and it will count 15 threads of warp under what is called a 38-inch 
glass. Let us count how many threads are in one inch; we will find them 
amount, as near as possible, to 70; the web measures 38 inches wide, so 
79 X 38 = 3,002. The total threads in the width is just 3,000, but the reed 
used has only half as many openings, and the cloth being called after the reed 
is styled a 15°°. 

The correct way to reckon fineness would be by the number of threads in 
the warp of the cloth ; but by custom it is the fineness of the reed that is 
adopted, this being half the number of threads, as already explained ; the 
glass, instead of being l-100th part of 40 inches, is made l-200th part of 40 
inches. For example, take a web with 2,000 threads in the 40 inches; the 

*The monument erected by the Chamber of Commerce, of Lyons, in the cemetery of 
Oullins, near that city, over the grave of Jacquard, the inventor of the loom for weav- 
ing figured silk, consists of a white marble tomb, raised several steps above the level of 
the ground, and sculptured with a bas-relief representing the City of L} r ons crowning 
Jaqquard's bust. 


reed has only 1,000 openings, and the web is styled a 10°°. A magnifying 
glass with an aperture below must, in order to be a 40-inch glass, be had to 
count 10, i. e., l-200th part of 40 inches, which is 0.20, or 20-100ths, or 
l-5th of an inch. 

A 38-inch glass is 0.19, or 19-100ths of an inch; a 37-inch glass is 0.185, 
or ISi-lOOths of an inch; a 36-inch glass is 0.18, or 18-100ths of an inch. 

With this information, any one can easily test for himself the accuracy of 
the counting glasses offered for sale. 

The technical names given by manufacturers to the warp reeds are, 40 
yarns, or 20 splits, equal to 1 beare; 5 beares make one set, or 100 (splits).* 


Bleaching is defined by Dr. Ure to be " the chemical art by which the 
various articles used for clothing are deprived of their natural colour, and are 
made white." Many years ago, Mr. Lee proposed several alterations in the 
existing system, and there was one improvement he brought forward that is 
at present in use, namely, the extensive use of soap in bleaching. The oil in 
the soap restores to the fibre much of the tenacity and softness that the con- 
tinued boiling and chemical operations it undergoes have a tendency more or 
less to reduce. 

Mr. W. Higgins, M. R. I. A., sixty years ago, recommended sulphuret of 
lime as a substitute for potash. Lately, hyposulphite of soda has been sug- 
gested as a safeguard after using chlorine. 

The following is a brief outline of the existing system in an Irish bleach- 
green. The boiling is conducted in large iron vessels, with lids secured down 
tightly, so as to retain all the steam, and thus prevent loss of heat, air, and 
reduction in the amount of liquid, which must occur with open vessels. 

The liquid used in the boiling process is alkaline ley, generally prepared 
now from soda ash ; in old times, barilla and potash were mixed. 

After boiling, the linens are washed and exposed to the action of the atmos- 
phere on the grass for two or three days, according to the season and weather. 

These processes are frequently repeated, and go on till the goods are half 
white. The straw of the flax, which cannot be perfectly extracted in the 
scutching and cleaning, now shows greatly, and demands a new application. 

This consists of giving a bath of water, having in solution chloride of soda, 
or potash, or lime. The former is the safest, and now generally adopted. 

The action of sulphuric acid, reduced to two or three of Twaddel's alkali- 
meter, is also beneficial, though it is a question whether this should be used 
after the chloride, as in old times, or before it. 

The breaking and whitening of the straw or sprit is greatly facilitated by 
what is called " rubbing;" this is, in fact, an imitation of hand- washing by 
machinery, and, with plenty of soap, is an excellent part of the bleaching 
process, contributing to increase rather than diminish the strength of the fibre. 

When the linen is quite white, it is starched, and afterwards dried on 
steam-heated rollers ; it is then ready for what is called the " finishing" pro- 
cess, given to it by machinery called " beetles." The whole time required 
for the bleaching is from four to seven weeks, according to the season and the 
weight of the fabric. 

* See Charley on Flax. 


The introduction of soda ash, and the centralising of business in large 
concerns, has wonderfully cheapened the cost of bleaching. Not very many 
years ago, a piece of light yard-wide linen would cost the merchant 3d. per 
yard to bleach, which is now done for lid., and in one-third the time. 

It cannot be said that the apparently high price of linen, as compared with 
cotton, is attributable to the bleaching expense. In order to show the differ- 
ence between the bleaching of cottons and that of linens, the following table 
of operations is extracted from a memorandum book by a working man : 


Minutes. Days. 

1. Lime boil for twelve hours wash 40 

2. Sour in muriatic acid for ten hours " 40 

3. Boil in lye for eight hours, 2 degs " 20 

4. Boil in lye for eight hours, 1£ degs " 80 

5. Dip for twelve hours in alkaline, 40 to 1 strength. " 30 

6. Sour for twelve hours in vitriol, 2 degs " 35 

Jf the above process does not make them white, give another light dip, and sour. 


For bleaching one parcel of light linens, say 150 double pieces: 

♦ Minutes. Days. 

1. Steep for twenty-four hours wash 15 2 

2. Boil for seven hours in lye and rosin, 2£ degs. " 15 

3. Boil for nine hours in lye, 2£ degs " 30 

4. Grass for three days " 

5. Boil for ten hours in lye, 3 degs " SO 

6. Grass for three days " 

Y. Boil for eight hours in lye, 3 degs " 30 

8. Grass for three days " 

9. Rough sour for ten hours in vitriol, 2 degs " 40 

1 0. Scald for four hours in weak lye " 30 

11. Grass for two days " 

12. Dip for ten hours in alkaline, 40 to 1 strength ... " 30 

13. Sour for twelve hours in vitriol, 1£ degrees " 45 

14. Scald for four hours in lye and soap " 20 

15. Rub with brown soap " 35 

16. Grass for two days " 

1Y. Dip for ten hours in alkaline, 30 to 1 strength. ..." 20 

18. Sour for twelve hours in vitriol, 1 deg. " 45 

19. Scald for three hours in soap and lye " 30 

20. Dip for ten hours in alkaline, 45 to 1 strength ... '• 20 

21. Sour for twelve hours in vitriol. 1 deg " 45 

Rub with soap " 20 


Time taken 31 

The goods should now be white and ready for beetling. 

Ireland possesses the best climate in the world for linen bleaching ; and it 
is this local advantage — this gift of nature — that has gradually given to her, 
and secures to her still, so high a position in this branch of commercial 

A large quantity of low-priced linen is exported brown, as received from 
the looms; another class is slightly tinged yellow by steeping in dilute 
muriate of tin and catechu, and then finished or glazed by the beetling pro- 
cess already described. The former are technically called " rough browns," 
and are used for blouses. The latter, styled " hollands," are much used for 
window blinds. Drab color is produced by using fustic, after what is called 


the iron liquor, i c, acetate of iron. For black this acetate is used diluted, 
to stand 5° of Twaddel's hydrometer, then dry the cloth, wash and plunge 
in a logwood bath. For slate color, divi divi, or shellac, after the iron liquor. 


The dyeing or printing of linens is, to use the words of Dr. Ure "A 
Chemical Art." A very important part of the process is the correct applica- 
tion of the mordants, or, as he explains, " the substances which are used, 
previously applied to piece goods, in order that they may afterwards take a 
required tinge or dye." Of course, if the mordants be applied over the 
whole cloth, and it afterwards is plunged into the dye, an even color will 
result ; while, if the mordant is only applied to portions of the cloth, an 
uneven color or pattern will come out. 

The latter operation is called "printing;" the former simply " dyeing." 
The printing of cotton cloth or calico has been so well described by Dr. Ure 
and other eminent chemists, that it is needless to enter into any general 
account of this chemical art. 

There is one advantage the linen fabric has over cotton that it is worth 
while to mention, for the information of the gentler sex, some of whom have 
met with such frightful accidents from their muslin dresses taking fire. The 
flax fabric is safe, comparatively, being very slow to ignite. 

Yet, it is singular to find that nearly all the linens printed in Ireland are 
for the foreign trade, scarcely a piece for home consumption. On the Euro- 
pean continent, in the United States, in Mexico and the West Indies, these 
goods are greatly in favor. * 


In Belgium, as already stated, there are two methods of preparing flax for 
market. The one is practised in the West Flanders and in the French 
Flanders, and is called the Courtrai system, or white steeping and bleaching. 
This system might be well adapted to this country, as it can be carried on on 
a large scale much better than the Blue system But it requires more capital 
on the part of the manufacturer, as the flax is not ready for market before -it 
is two years old ; it can only be practised, however, where there is the 
convenience of good running water. 

The Blue system is practised in different parts of Belgium, there being no 
difficulty under this method of finding steeping-places. The flax is manufac- 
tured and brought to market the same year that it is grown. 

The following statement shows the average value, in sterling, of flax in 
Belgium, in its green state, and also when manufactured for market : 



£. s. d. £. s. d. 

One English acre, fair quality 12 

Seed 2 



£ s. d. 

Rent and taxes of one acre 115 

Ploughing and sowing 1 

Seed 1 5 

Manure 1 10 

AVeeding 10 


Leaving profit to the grower £8 



£ s. d. £ s. d. 

One acre of good quality 16 

Seed of one acre of good quality 115 

17 15 



£ s. d. £ s. d. 

Rent and Taxes 1 15 

Ploughing and Sowing 1 10 

Manure 2 

Seed 1 15 

Weeding 15 

7 15 

Leaving profit to the grower £10 



£ s. d. £ s. d. 

7 cwt. of flax, at 80s. per cwt 28 

2 cwt. of tow, at 10s. per cwt 1 



£. s. d. £ s. d. 

Price of one acre 12 

Pulling • 14 

Rippling 15 

Steeping and Carting 16 

Spreading 15 

Turning 5 

Scutching 7 cwt. at 12s 4 4 

19 9 

Profit to the manufacturer ,£9 11 




£ s. d. £ s. d. 

7 cwt. of flax at £6 per cwt 42 

2 cwt. of fine tow, at 15s. per cwt 1 10 

43 10 


£ s. d. £ s. d. 

Cost price of one acre 16 

Pulling 15 

Stacking 5 

Tying-up and Stacking 12 

Taking off the seed 8 

Steeping, capping, <fec 1 10 

Turning caps, &c 5 

Tying-up, <fec 5 

Bleaching and turning 115 

Tying up and carting home 1 

Scutching 7 cwt. at 20s 7 

29 15 

Profit to the manufacturer £13 15 


Directions for the proper management of the Flax crop ; originally compiled 
by the Committee of the late Royal Flax Improvement Society. Revised 
by the Special Committee of the North- East Agricultural Association of 
Ireland, for promoting the growth of Flax, Belfast, March, 1860. 
By attention and careful cultivation, good flax may be grown on various 
soils j but some are much better adapted for it than others. The best is a 
sound, dry, deep loam. It is almost essential that the land should be properly 
drained and subsoiled j as, when it is long saturated with either underground 
or surface water, good flax need not be expected. 

The best rotation is to grow after wheat, on average soils j but in poor 
soils, where wheat does not succeed, it is often better to grow it after pota- 
toes. Flax should on no account be grown oftener than once in five years, 
and once in seven is considered safer. 

Any departure from this system of rotation is likely to cause loss and dis- 


One of the points of the greatest importance in the culture of flax, is by 
thorough draining, and by careful and repeated cleansing of the land from 
weeds, to place it in the finest, deepest, and cleanest state. This will make 
room for the roots to penetrate, which they will often do to a depth equal to 
one-half the length of the stem above ground. 

After wheat, one ploughing may be sufficient, on light, friable loam, but 
two are better; and on stiff soils, three are advisable — one immediately after 
harvest, across the ridges, and two in spring, so as to be ready for sowing in 
the first or second week of April. Much will, of course, depend on the 
nature of the soil, and the knowledge and experience of the fanner. The 
land should be so drained and subsoiled that it can be sown in flats, which 
will give more even and much better crops. Subsoiling should not be done 
at a less interval than two years prior to the flax crops. This gives the 
land time to consolidate. But, until the system of thorough draining be 
general, it will be advisable, after oats, to plough early in autumn, to 
the depth of six or eight inches. Throw the land into ridges, that it may 
receive the frost and air ; and make surface drains to carry off the rains of 
winter. Plough again in spring, three or four inches deep, so as to preserve 
the winter surface for the roots of the flax. The spring ploughing should be 
given some time before sowing, to allow any seeds of weeds in the land to 
vegetate, and the harrowing in of the flax seed will kill them, and save a 
great deal of after weeding. Following the last harrowing, it is necessary to 
roll, to give an even surface, and consolidate the land, breaking up this again 
with a short-toothed or seed-harrow before sowing, which should be up and 
down, not across the ridges, or anglewise. These operations can be varied by 
any skilful farmer, to suit peculiar soils, or extraordinary, seasons. The 
object is to have clean, fine soil, as like as possible to what a gardeu soil 
should be. 

Rotation recommended by a gentleman of considerable experience : — 


1. Grass. 

2. Oats. 

3. Potatoes or Turnips. 

4. Wheat. 

5. Flax on half. 

6. Clover Hay. 

1. Grass. 

2. Oats. 

3. Potatoes. 

4. Flax. 

5. Hay. 



The seed best adapted for the generality of soils is Riga, although Dutch 
has been used in many districts of country for a series of years with perfect 
success, and generally produces a finer fibre, but not so heavy a crop as Riga. 
In buying seed, select it plump, shining, and heavy, and of the best brands, 
from a respectable merchant. Sift it clear of all the seeds of weeds, which 
will save a great deal of after trouble when the crop is growing. This may 
be done by farmers, and through a wire sieve, twelve bars to the inch. 
Home-saved seed has produced excellent crops, yet it will be best, in most 
cases, to use the seed which is saved at home for feeding, or to sell it for the 
oil mills. The proportion of seed may be stated at one Riga barrel, or three 
and a-half imperial bushels to the Irish or plantation acre; and so on, in 
proportion to the Scotch or Cunningham, and the English or statute acre. It 
is better to sow rather too thick than too thin ; as, with thick sowing, the 
stem grows tall and straight, with only one or two seed capsules at the top ; 
and the fibre is found greatly superior, in fineness and length, to that produced 
from thin sown flax, which grows coarse and branches out, producing much 
seed, but a very inferior quality of fibre. The ground being pulverised, and 
well cleaned, roll and sow. If it has been laid off without ridges, it should 
be marked off in divisions, eight to ten feet broad, in order to give an equable 
supply of seed. After sowing, cover it with a seed harrow, going twice over 
it — once up and down, and once across or anglewise, as this makes it more 
equally spread, and avoids the small drills made by the teeth of the harrow. 
Finish with the roller, which will leave the seed covered about an inch — the 
proper depth. The ridges should be very little raised in the centre, when 
the ground is ready for the seed, otherwise the crop will not ripen evenly ; 
and when land is properly drained, there should be no ridges. A stolen 
crop of rape or winter vetches, or of turnips of the Stone or Norfolk globe 
variety may be taken after the flax is pulled. Rolling the ground after sow- 
ing is very advisable, care being taken not to roll when the ground is so wet 
that the earth adheres to the roller. If the crop be grown oftener than the- 
regular rotation mentioned, then manure should be tried. 


If care has been paid to cleaning the seed and the soil, few weeds will 
appear ; but if there be any, they must be carefully pulled. It is done in 
Belgium by women and children, who, with coarse cloths round their knees, 
creep along on all-fours. This injures the young plant less than walking over 
it, which, if done, should be by persons whose shoes are not filled with nails. 
They should work also facing the wind, so that the plants laid flat by the pres- 
sure may be blown up again, or thus be assisted to regain their upright posi- 
tion. The tender plant, pressed one way, soon recovers; but, if twisted or 
flattened by careless weeders, it seldom rises again. The weeding should be 
done before the- flax exceeds six inches in height. 


The time when flax should be pulled is a point of much nicety to determine. 
The fibre is in the best state before the seed is quite ripe. If pulled too soon> 
although the fibre is fine, the great waste in scutching and hackling renders 
it unprofitable; aud if pulled too late, the additional weight does not com- 
pensate for the coarseness of the fibre. It may be stated, that the best time 
for pulling is, when the seeds are beginning to change from a green to a pale 


brown color, and the stalk to become yellow, for about two-thirds of its height 
from the ground. When any of the crop is lying and suffering from wet, it 
should be pulled as soon as possible, and kept by itself. So long as the ground 
is undrained, and imperfectly levelled before sowing, the flax will be found of 
different lengths. In such cases, pull each length separately, and steep in 
separate pools, or keep it separate in the same pool. When there is much 
second growth, the flax should be caught by the puller just underneath the 
bolls, which will leave the short stalks behind. If the latter be few, it is 
best not to pull them at all, as the loss from mixture and discoloration by weeds 
would counterbalance the profit. If the ground has been thoroughly drained, 
and laid out evenly, the flax will likely be all of the same length. It is most 
essential to take time and care to keep the flax even, like a brush, at the root 
ends. This increases the value to the spinner, and, of course, to the grower, 
who will be amply repaid by an additional price for his extra trouble. Let 
the handfuls of pulled flax be laid across each other diagonally, to be ready 
for the 


Which should be carried on at the same time, and in the same field with the 
pulling. If the only advantage to be derived from rippling was the compa- 
tive ease with which rippled flax is handled, the practice ought always to be 
adopted ; but, besides this, the seed is a most valuable part of the crop, being 
worth, if sold for the oil-mill, £3 per acre, and if used for feeding stock of 
all kinds, at least £4 per acre. The apparatus is very simple. The ripple 
consists of a row of iron teeth screwed into a block of wood. This can be 
made by any handy blacksmith.* It is to be taken to the field, where the 
flax is being pulled, and screwed down to the centre of a nine-feet plank, 
resting on two stools. The ripplers may either stand or sit astride at 
opposite ends. They should be at such a distance from the comb as to 
permit of their striking it properly and alternately. A winnowing sheet 
must be placed under them, to receive the bolls as they are rippled off; and 
then the ripplers are ready to receive the flax just pulled, the handfuls being 
placed diagonally, and bound up in a sheaf. The sheaf is laid down at 
the right hand of the rippler and untied. He takes a handful with one 
hand, about six inches from the root, and a little nearer the top with the 
other. He spreads the top of the handful like a fan, draws the one half of it 
through the comb, and the other half past the side; and, by a half-turn of 
the wrist, the same operation is repeated with the rest of the bunch. Some, 
however, prefer rippling without turning the hand, giving the flax one or two 
pulls through, according to the quantity of bolls. The flax can often be rip- 
pled without being passed more than once through the comb. He then lays 
the handfuls down at his left side, each handful crossing the other, when the 
sheaf should be carefully tied up and removed. The object of crossing the 
handfuls so carefully, after rippling, when tying up the beets for the steep, is 
that they will part freely from each other when they are taken to spread out 
on the grass, and not interlock and be put out of their even order, as would 
otherwise be the case. If the weather be dry, the bolls should be kept in 
the field, spread on winnow-cloths, or other contrivance for drying ; and if 

* The best ripples are made of half-inch square rods of iron, placed with the angles 
of iron next the ripplers, 3-16ths of an inch asnnder at the bottom, half-an-inch at the 
top, and 18 inches long, to allow a sufficient spring, and save much breaking of flax. 
The points should begin to taper three inches from the top. 


turned from time to time, they will win. Passing the bolls first through a 
coarse riddle, and afterwards through fanners, to remove straw and leaves, 
will facilitate the drying. If the weather be moist, they should be taken in- 
doors, and spread out thinly and evenly on a barn floor, or on a loft, leaving 
windows and doors open, to allow a thorough current of air, and turned twice 
a day. By the above plan of slow drying, the seed has time to imbibe all the 
juices that remain in the husk, and to become perfectly ripe. In fine seasons 
the bolls should always be dried in the open air, the seed threshed out, and 
the heaviest and plumpest used for sowing or crushing. The light seeds and 
chaff form most wholesome and nutritious feeding for cattle. Flax ought 
not to be allowed (under this method) to stand in the field, if possible, even 
the second day ; it should be rippled as soon as pulled, and carried to the 
water as soon as possible, that it may not harden. 

This process requires the greatest care and attention. River water is the 
best. If spring water has to be used, let the pond be filled some weeks, if 
possible, before the flax is put in, that the sun and air may soften the water. 
That containing iron, or other mineral substances, should never be used. If 
river water can be had, it need not be let into the pond sooner than the day 
before the flax is to be steeped. The best size of a steep pool is 12 to 18 feet 
broad, and three and a quarter to four feet deep. Place the flax loosely in 
the pool, in one layer, somewhat sloped, and in regular rows, with the root 
end underneath; the tie of each row of sheaves to reach the root of the 
previous one ; cover with rushes, or straw, or other material, with stones laid 
on it, so as to keep the flax just under the water, and as the fermentation 
proceeds, additional weight should be laid on — to be removed as soon as the 
fermentation ceases, so as not to sink the flax too much in the pool. Thus 
covered it never sinks to the bottom, nor is affected by air or light. A small 
stream of water, allowed to run through a pool, has been found to improve its 
colour. In this case, if the pools are in a line, the stream should be con- 
ducted along the one side, and run into each pool separately, and the water of 
each pool run off, along the oppotite side, in a similar manner. It will be 
sufficiently steeped, in an average time, from eight to fourteen days, according 
to the heat of the weather and the nature of the water. Every grower should 
learn to know when the flax has had enough of the water, as a few hours too 
much may injure it. It is, however, much more frequently under-watered 
than orer-watered. The best test is the following : — Try some stalks of 
average thickness, by breaking the shove, or woody part, in two places, about 
six or eight inches apart, at the middle of the stalk ; catch the broken bit of 
wood, and if it will pull freely out, downwards, for that length, without 
breaking or tearing the fibre, and with none of the fibre adhering to it, it is 
ready to take out. Make this trial every six hours after fermentation sub- 
sides, for sometimes the change is rapid. Never lift the flax roughly from 
the pool, with forks or grapes, but have it carefully handed out of the flax 
drain by men standing in the water. It is advantageous to let the flax drain 
twelve to twenty-four hours after being taken from the pool, by placing the 
bundles on their root ends, close together, or on the flat, with the slope ; but 
the heaps should not be too large, otherwise the flax will be injured by 

The flax water can be either used as liquid manure for meadows, or kept 
n the p ool till the first flood ; it should not be run off into the river when 


the water is very low, as the odour is very unpleasant; and the water thus 
impregnated is poisonous to fish, and contrary to law. — See Fisheries Act, 
cap. 62 sec. 36. 


Select, when possible, clean, short, pasture-ground for this operation ; and 
mow down and remove any weeds that rise above the surface of the sward. 
Lay the flax evenly on the grass and spread thin and very equally. If the 
directions under the head of rippling have been attended to, the handfuls 
will come readily asunder without entangling. Turn it two or three times 
while on the grass (with a rod about eight feet in length, and an inch aod a 
half in diameter), that it may not become of different shades by the unequal 
action of the sun, which is often the case through inattention to this point. 
Turn it, when there is a prospect of rain, that the flax may be beaten down 
a little, and thus prevented from being blown away. 


Six to eight days, if the weather be showery, or ten to twelve, if it be dry, 
should be sufficient on the grass. A good test of its being ready to lift, is to 
rub a few stalks from the top to the bottom ; and when the wood breaks 
easily, and separates from the fibre, leaving it sound, it has had enough of 
the grass. Also, when a large proportion of the stalks are perceived to form 
a how and string, from the fibre contracting and separating from the woody 
stalk. But the most certain way is to prove a small quantity with the hand- 
break or in a flax-mill. In lifting, keep the lengths straight and the ends 
even, otherwise great loss will occur in the rolling and scutching. Let it be 
set up to dry for a few hours, and afterwards tie it up in small bundles ; and, 
if not taken soon to be scutched, it will be much improved by being put up 
in small stacks, loosely built, with stones or brambles in the bottom to keep 
it dry and allow a free circulation of air. Stacks built on pillars would be 
the best. 


By fire, is always most pernicious. If properly steeped and grassed, no such 
drying is necessary ; but to make it ready for breaking and scutching, 
exposure to the sun is sufficient. In some districts it is put to dry on kilns 
in a damp state, and is absolutely burned before it is dry; and the rich oily 
appearance of the flax is always greatly impaired. 


If done by hand, should be on the Belgian system, which is less wasteful 
than that practised in Ireland. If by milling, the farmer will do well to 
select those mills in which the improved machinery has been introduced. 


This mode of preparation requires to be very carefully executed, as inat- 
tention will reduce the value of the straw, and yield inferior fibre. When 
made up for drying in large sheaves, the straw is much injured, the outside 
stalks being much discolored by the heat of the sun before the inside of the 
sheaf is dry. The flax-stems should be put together in bunches, about one- 
half larger than a man can grasp in one hand, spread a little, and laid on the 
ground in rows after each puller; the bunches laid with tops and roots alter- 
nately, which prevents the seed-bolls from sticking to each other in lifting. It 


should be stooked as soon after pulling as possible, and never allowed to 
remain over night unstooked, except in settled weather. The stooking 
should go on at the same time as the pulling, as, if flax is allowed to get 
rain while on the ground, its color is injured. A well-trained stooker will 
put up the produce of a statute acre or more, in good order, in a day, with 
two boys or girls to hand him the bunches. The flax should be handed with 
the tops to the stooker. The handfuls, as pulled, are set up, resting against 
each other, the root ends spread well out, and the tops joining like the letter 
A. The stooks are made eight to ten feet long, and a short strap keeps the 
ends firm. The stooks should be very narrow on the top, and thinly put up, 
so that they may get the full benefit of the weather. In six or eight days at 
most, after being pulled, the flax should be ready for tying up in sheaves of 
tee size of corn sheaves. It is then ricked, and allowed to stand in the field 
until the seed is dry enough for stacking. To build the rick, lay two poles 
parallel on the ground, about a foot asunder, with a strong upright pole at 
each end. The flax is then built the length of a sheaf in thickness or 
breadth. The bottom poles should be laid north and south, so that the sun 
shall get at both sides of the rick during the day. In building, the sheaves 
should be laid tops and roots alternately, built seven to eight feet high, and 
finished on the top by laying a single row of sheaves lengthwise, or across the 
others, and then another row as before, but with the tops all the same way, 
which gives a slope to throw off rain, and finished by putting on the top a 
little straw tied with a rope. In this way, if properly built, it will stand 
secure for months. It can be stacked at leisure, or put in a barn, the seed 
taken off during the winter, and the flax steeped in the following May ; or it 
may be kept stacked, without receiving any injury, for two or three years, or 
even longer. 


In the environs of Tournay, in Belgium, flax is grown of a most superior 
quality, from which Brussels lace is made. The expense of obtaining this 
quality of flax is nothing when compared with its great value. In favorable 
seasons it is sold in the green state before pulling, at from £50 to £60 stg., 
per acre. 

E. R Deman gives a description of the process in his treatise on flax. 

The land is prepared like a garden plot, having been fertilized and enriched 
for several years previously. The seed used is the best Riga, five bushels of 
which are sown to an English acre, after which it is " Baine" or sticked, in 
the following manner : — 

Forked pieces of wood are driven into the ground, forming squares ) upon 
these small poles are laid at a height of about eight inches from the ground, 
and on these poles, thus disposed, branches of small wood are placed. ■ The 
object of this process is to keep the flax from falling upon the ground, which 
it would inevitably do without this precaution, in consequence of the great 
pliancy and delicacy of the plant, which grows to a great height. 

The flax is pulled as soon as the seed begins to form, and therefore the 
seed is entirely sacrificed. The handfuls, when pulled, are set in circles about 
five feet in circumference. Poles are previously driven into the ground, 
forming centres, around which the handfuls are set erect ; upon the top of 
the poles are placed caps of straw, which, spreading downwards, cover the 
whole of each circle from exposure to the atmosphere, and forming, as it 
were, a series of small huts. In five or six days it is tied in small bundles. 


Although the flax has been pulled very green, it has always a little half- formed 
seed which must be taken off — not for its value, but because the flax must be 
cleansed from all its chaff, leaves and dust ; and in order to remove with 
greater facility every particle of dust, it is exposed on fine days to the sun, 
and rubbed a few stalks at a time, then bleached on the grass three or four 
days immediately before steeping. It is steeped when the water is at least a 
temperature of 50°. When taken from the water it is set up in caps to dry, 
and when dry it is spread on the grass for three or four days, after which it 
is tied up in bundles and sent to be scutched and scraped. 

The latter process is one of great nicety and peculiarity ; it is first half 
scutched, and then scraped with an iron scraper, and finally brushed. 

This flax is worth from £300 to £350, stg., per ton. It is estimated that 
when one ton of this flax is manufactured into superior Brussels lace, called 
" dent ell e point de Bruxelles," it produces £60,000. 

I have often thought that some mechanical contrivance, or modification of 
the plan above described, as practised with such success in growing flax near 
Tournay, would be found suitable, on a certain scale, in the cultivation of 
grass and grain. 

Every one has noticed the Laportea Canadensis (Canadian nettle) shooting 
up its lengthy stem through the brushwood pile in the corners of neglected 
fields, or the tiny vetch struggling by its side to gain the air and light. 

Could a double net- work then, of wire or other material, be set up, at 
small expense, at heights of two, three and four feet, above our growing crops 
of grass and grain, the capillary attraction, so to speak, or the struggling of 
the plants to reach the unclouded light above, would be so great as to increase 
the yield per acre of grass and straw, and may be too, the yield of grain. 

On the debit side there would be the cost of storage, of material, of laying 
it, and of taking it away. 

The practical solution of this problem will form an interesting study in 
those countries where the question of food supply forces itself on intelligent 
minds, so that the wants of dense populations may be met. 

The idea, therefore, is given to the world for what it may be worth. 



The true hernp plant is the Cannabis sativa of botanists. Its fibre is so 
generally employed for cordage that the value of all other fibres is estimated 
not so much from their intrinsic properties, as from their greater or less 
resemblance to hemp, and especially to Russian hemp. The growth of fibre 
is promoted by shade and moisture, which are procured by thick sowing, but 
where the plant is cultivated for its resinous and intoxicating secretions, it 
requires exposure to light and air. 

By the celebrated Jussien the hemp and the hop plants were placed in the 
same natural family with the nettles. In more modern works they are 
separated into distinct families. These two plants are closely connected in 
properties, as in structure. 

The hop (Humulus lupulus), besides a bitter, secretes a resinous principle. 
Hop bines abound in fibre, and have often been proposed to be turned to 
useful account for cordage or paper, but as yet to little extent. 

The hemp plant likewise secretes a resinous principle in its leaves, on 
which account these, as well as the churrus collected from off the young tops 
of the stem and flowers, is highly esteemed in all Eastern countries, on account 
of its exhilirating and intoxicating properties. Hence, among the Arabs the 
hemp has a variety of names, as " the increaser of pleasure/' "the cementer 
of friendship/' &c. By its name of Hasheesh it is often mentioned in the 
works of travellers in Egypt, Arabia, and Syria; while the name of Bhang is 
not less celebrated in the far East. 

The following description of the plant is extracted from the " Manual of 
Materia Medica " by Dr. Royle, pp. 622-629, 2nd ed. : 

"The hemp is dioecious (occasionally monoecious) annual, from 3 to 10 feet high, 
according to soil and climate. Root white, fusiform, furnished with fibres. The stem 
erect ; when crowded, simple ; but when growing apart, branched even from the bottom, 
angular, and, like the whole plant, covered with fine but rough pubes-cence. This stem 
is hollow within, or only filled with a soft pith. This pith is surrounded by a tender, 
brittle substance, consisting chiefly of cellular texture, with some woody fibres, which 
is called the reed, boon, and shove of the hemp. Over this we have the thin bark, com- 
posed of fibres, extending in a parallel direction all along the stalk. These fibres consist 
of delicate fibrils, united together by cellular tissue, and all covered by the thin mem- 
brance or cuticle. 

The leaves are opposite or alternately, on long petioles, scabrous, digitate, composed 
of from 5 to 7 narrow, lanceolate, sharply senated leaflets, of which the lower are the 
smallest, all tapering at the apex into a long entire point. Stipules subulate. Males on 
a separate plant. Flowers in drooping, axillary, or racemose panicles, with subulate 
bracts. Perianth 5 — parted, segments not quite equal, downy. Stamens 5 ; filaments 
short; anthers bare, pendulous, 2 celled; cells united by their backs, opening by a 


longitudinal slit. Females in a crowded spike-like raceme, with leafy bracts. _ The 
perianth consists of a single small spathe-like sepal, which is persistent, acuminate, 
ventricose at the base, embraces the ovary, and is covered with short, brownish glands. 
Ovary subglobular, 1-celled, with one pendulous ovule. Style short, Stigmas 2, elon- 
gated, glandular. Nut ovate, greyish colored, smooth, covered by the calycine sepal, 
bivalved but not dehiscing, and inclosing a single oily seed. Seed pendulous. Testa 
thin, membranous, marked at the apex with colored hilum. Embryo without albumen, 
doubled upon itself. Radicle elongated, turned towards the hilum, and the apex of the 
nut separated from the incumbent plano-convex cotyledons by a small quantity of 

Some very valuable information on the production of the hemp plant in 
India will be found in a Report on the subject by Dr. Royle, in the year 
1839, which was published in the Trans, of the Agri.Hortic. Soc, Vol. viii. 
p. 15. 

"Hemp is cultivated in almost every part of Europe for home consumption, but only 
in large quantities for export in Russia and Poland, though the finest quality of hemp 
comes from Italy. In America large quantities are produced in Kentucky, and Missouri. 

The soil must not be over rich nor too sterile, of moderate depth and friable. In 
Russia the time of sowing varies from the middle of May to the end of June. The 
season of reaping is from the end of August to the end of September, and it is therefore 
between three and four months in a state of vegetation ; the male plants being pulled 
some weeks before the female. The Russian summer, though short, is regular while it 
lasts, and th« temperature sufficiently high to bring it to perfection. 

Large quantities are grown in the Southern climate of Italy, both in Bologna and 
Romagna, and along the banks of the Po, as in the neighbourhood of Naples. The 
Italians have a saying, that 'hemp may be grown everywhere, but it cannot be produced 
fit for use either in heaven or earth without manure.' The climate of Italy, it is well 
known, is remarkable for its clearness, regularity, dryness, and warmth. The Italian 
hemp is fine, soft, light-colored, and strong, as well as long in the staple ; and it sells 
for 50s. per cwt. in the English market, when the best Rnssian sells at 47s. for the same 

Hemp being one of the few cultivated plants which has the male and female 
flowers in different plants, affords some anomalies in its culture, especially 
that of having two harvests in the same crop. 

Soil. — The soil in which hemp thrives, is a deep, rich, moist soil, five or six 
inches deep ; besides the alluvial, where sand and clay are intimately mixed, 
and having the above characteristics; also the friable loams/ which contain 
much vegetable matter. All should contain a fair portion of sand, as this 
keeps the soil open and light for the roots to spread in. Stiff, cold clays are 
unsuitable; for even if the plant should grow well, it is not easy to pull it; 
for when strong clay becomes saturated with rain, the soil runs together, and 
on drying sets as hard as a pavement. If the soil be over-rich, the plant grows 
too luxuriantly, and produces a coarse but strong fibre. But hemp is some- 
times sown in such soils to meliorate them for the cereals, which would other- 
wise run too much to straw. But as many soils are too poor, they require to 
be raised to a suitable state by the addition of manure ; and with this, it is 
said that hemp may be grown in the same soil for many years. When a fine 
quality of fibre is required, of course, only the most suitable soil should be 
selected, or that in which the growth of the plant is neither excessive nor 
stunted. In Italy, hemp is sown in their best lands, which are rich and strong 
loams, and made fine and friable. 

Culture and Manure. — At Soonamooky, hemp grows luxuriantly in sand, 
manured with stable dung. But the richness of the soil, and the quantity of 
manure required, must vary, not only according to the nature of the soil and 
its requirements, but also to the warmth of the soil, and the nature of the 


climate. Warm, moist ones require less than cold, whether dry or moist 
climates. In England, Mr. Rowlandson says, the generality of soil will 
require a dressing of ten tons of well rotted farm-yard dung per acre, ploughed 
and harrowed in early in April. The land should, of course, be in the first 
instance well ploughed and properly drained; also well harrowed and rolled, 
to get the top-soil into good tilth ; and weeds, as horse-mint, or twitch, des- 
troyed. The manure must be carefully and evenly spread, and the plough 
follow close to the spreader. 

Seed. — Of seed, that from Holland is the most esteemed, ripens soon, 
yields abundant crops, and of a fine quality; but well-grown English seed is 
also of good quality. Indian seed, from external appearance, appears fine, 
but may not be so well suited in the first crop for fibre; but the Himalayan 
seed, both from its appearance and the nature of its produce, is probably 
inferior to none, and perhaps only requires interchanging. The seed should 
be of a bright grey color, and plump; and must not have undergone heating 
in any way, and therefore the taste, when bitten, should be sweet, and nut 
bitter or acrid. 

The quantity of seed may vary from two to two and a half, others say to 
three bushels an acre; the last if a fine fibre is required, for weaving into 
cloth. But the larger quantity cannot be sown on very rich soils. The thicker 
it is on suitable land, the finer it will grow. The fresh-ploughed land should 
be sown very evenly, care being taken to scare away birds. The best time for 
sowing, in England, is from the first to the 15th May, as frosts are apt to 
injure the young plants; but late-sown plants are apt to grow thin and weak. 

After-culture. — Hemp seed is sown both broadcast and in drills. When 
grown on account chiefly of the seed, it is sown thin. Sinclair says, by sow- 
ing hemp in drills, a coarser and stronger bark or fibre, fit for cordage, will be 
produced, and a less quantity of seed is required than by sowing it broadcast. 
This latter mode is to be preferred, when hemp is wanted for textile purposes. 
The stems rise slender and fine, according to their proximity ; but they 
require to be weeded. In general the hemp will itself smother all weeds. 
except in the spaces between drills. During its season of rapid growth, the 
plant necessarily requires moisture, and therefore, in some countries, irrigation 
is practised. 

Palling. — As already observed, hemp has usually two harvests ; but when 
grown on account of the fibre only, it may be pulled when in flower, and no 
distinction made between the male and female plants. But as it is usually 
desirable to get both the seed and the fibre of both plants, the male plants, 
or white hemp, are pulled as soon as they have shed their pollen, usually 
about thirteen weeks after they have been sown. They may then be easily 
recognized by their leaves becoming yellow, and the stem of a whitish color, 
and the flowers faded. Each plant is pulled up singly by the root, care being- 
taken not to break or cramp the stem in the hand. The ripeness of the female 
plant is known not only by many of the same signs as those of the male, but 
also by the seeds beginning to turn of a grey color, being firm inside, and 
some of the capsules to open. When the seed has become perfectly ripe, the 
bark is apt to become woody and coarse, and to separate with difficulty. But 
the seed which is required for sowing ought to be taken from plants allowed 
enough of room to spread, and then to fully ripen their seed. 

Drying. — When the plants are pulled, it is recommended to hold the root- 
end uppermost, and with a wooden sword dress off the flowers and leaves, as 


they assist in manuring the hind. They are then bound in small bundles 
with bands at each end, of sueh a size that you can grasp with both hands, 
or sometimes into bundles of twelve handfuls each, and arranged along the 
borders of the field. If not done before, knock and shake off the soil from 
the roots, and scrape off the undergrowth of leaves. It is then set up like 
wheat in shocks, for a week or so. The stalks which form each handful 
should be as nearly as possible of an equal length, and the roots in particular 
should be placed as even as possible. If the crop is kept till spring, it is tied 
in larger bundles and stacked and thatched. 

Gathering Seed. — When the female hemp is gathered, it is allowed to 
stand eight or ten days in the air. to allow the seed to dry and ripen, the 
tops being covered with undergrowth, to keep off the birds, after which, cut 
off the heads, or gently beat out or thresh them to get out the seed, on a 
cloth. The seed which remains after this operation is got out by combing 
the heads on the teeth of a ripple; but the seed is inferior to that which 
first falls out, and is unfit for sowing. The female plant is generally stacked 
during the winter, and not steeped till the spring. 

Drying. — When the hemp has been pulled, it ought, according to some 
authorities, to be dried in the sun for one or two days, but I)u Hamel 
observes that it is a matter of doubt whether the plant should be dried before 
it is steeped; so Mills, in his 'Husbandry/ like the natives of India with 
their Sunn, thinks that this drying appears needless trouble. So Marcandier 
directs, that when the hemp is perfectly ripe it must be put into the water as 
soon as it is pulled out of the ground ; and Sinclair says, that hemp should 
be watered as soon as possible. In this state it is said to require only four 
days, but, when it has been dried, eight days of steeping. The time must, 
moreover, depend a good deal on the temperature of the water. 

Sleeping. — The steeping of hemp, called water-retting, is a very important 
part of its preparation, and is to be distinguished from another method which 
is- called dew-retting. The steeping places are often only ditches, three or 
four feet deep, varying in breadth and length, dug for the purpose on the 
margins of rivers. The bundles of hemp are laid at the bottom of the water, 
and covered with straw, and sometimes with sods, and loaded with pieces of 
wood and stones to keep them down. The object, as in the ca&e of flax, is by 
a slight degree of fermentation to enable the epidermis, or outer skin, to 
separate readily from the bark, and this from the boon or reed. This is 
readily ascertained by taking out one of the steeped stems, and holding it by 
the root end, and drawing the thumb-nail up the stem to the top. If the 
fibre slip up the stem, it is a proof that it has been sufficiently retted. 

Du Hamel, having steeped hemp in different sorts of water, observes that 
the fibres steeped in putrid standing water were softer than those which had 
been steeped in running water. But in water which does not run, the fibres 
contract a disagreeable color; they are, however, notwithstanding this, easily 
bleached; it is desirable, however, to make a small stream of water pass 
through the steeping place. 

Du Hamel, referring to the common opinion, that hemp intended for 
fine cloths should be retted more than that for coarse cloths, and that for 
making of ropes should be steeped least of all, observes, that though there 
may be some truth in this, it is in vain to hope greatly to improve, by this 
process, fibres which are naturally coarse. A fine fibre cannot be obtained 


without the concurrence of soil, of seasons, and of climate, the mode of sow- 
ing and of culture, and the degree of ripeness. 

Drying after Watering. — When the hemp is sufficiently retted, it is taken 
cirefully out of the water, and then carried to a field of aftermath or any 
other grass (hence called " grassing") that is clean and free from cattle, 
here it is spread out very evenly, and will probably require to lie there for 
three weeks or more, in order to bleach, and the fibre to become free ; during 
which time it must be carefully turned over with light long poles every three 
or four days. Mr. Rowlandson says it is sufficiently bleached when pink spots 
appear on the stem. It is sometimes dried along a wall, or on rocky ground. 
When dry, the hemp is tied up in bundles again, and carried to the barn or 

Peeling and Breaking — When the hemp is sufficiently dried, the next 
process is either to peel it, by taking one stalk after the other, breaking the 
reed and slipping off the bark. The process is simple but tedious, and will 
give occupation to those who are without any. Bui it comes off in ribbons 
which do not heckle so well as hemp that has been broken, and they are apt 
to retain some of the thick parts next the root, hence the saying that this 
mode is better for the seller than the buyer. 

The term of breaking or braking hemp, applies rather to the boon or reed 
than to the fibre, for this only bends under the hand of the dresser K and does 
not break. The operation is performed either by beating the hemp, which 
is a laborious and tedious work, or by the break, which may be moved either 
by hand or by a spring or treddle attached to the upper jaw of the break, or 
by fluted rollers, worked by horse, wind or water, and now sometimes by 
steam power. When hemp has undergone the process of breaking, it is 
ready like flax, for the process of scutching, in which scutching mills are 
now used, as in the case of flax. By rubbing, beetling, and striking the 
hemp with reiterated blows, the longitudinal fibres are separated from one 
another, and in proportion to the greater or less degree of that separation, the 
hemp becomes more or less fine, elastic, and soft to the touch. 

Dew-retting — Mr. Rowlandson says (1 c, p. 180) — will produce the most 
valuable white hemp. The stems, after being pulled, are allowed to stand in 
the stooks for two or three days ; they are then spread out on land where the 
orass is plentiful, and may require to be there for six weeks, and to be 
frequently turned. The process will be completed when the pink spots 
appear, as before noticed, which must be carefully looked for, when it will be 
ready to gather and tie up in bundles, to form stooks, in order to dry ; the 
fibre will not sustain any damage before the pink spots appear. Snow-retting 
is practised in Russia a,nd Sweden. After the first fall, they spread the hemp 
(which has been dried in the sun or otherwise) on the snow, and leave it 
there to be covered with other falls of snow, until Spring, when it is usually 
found to be sufficiently retted (Wisset, p. 194). In Livonia they steep their 
hemp in a manner which is a medium between still and running water, in a 
series of basins, one above the other. 

In addition to the ordinary methods of preparation of hemp there are others 
which may be briefly noticed. 

The Abbe Brulles recommended the use of soap in the proportion of one 
part to forty-eight of water, at a temperature of about 200° F., and the water 
to be about forty times the weight of the hemp. Du Hamel tried boiling the 


bemp stems in water, but be did not find tbat the peeling was facilitated. 
Marcandier recommended a second watering, and also the use of a warm 
alkaline ley, (1 c, pp. 243 and 245). 

We have seen the use of hot water successfully applied to flax in recent 
times, and soap has been used in several processes, and in a very ingenious 
manner in one in which a little acid is afterwards added, so that decomposition 
takes place, in consequence of the acid uniting with the alkaline base, when 
the oil which is set free assists in softening the fibre. 

There is a peculiar method of drying, to which the Livonians are said to 
ascribe the good or bad quality of their hemp. The stems are first set up to 
drain, and then spread out for a day to dry; after which they are made up 
in heaps, and covered over with straw, or other similar material of any kind, 
to make them sweat. When they have sweated enough, they are laid ao-ain 
in small heaps, so that the air may dry them in the shade by blowing through 
them; after which they are effectually dried by fire, kiln, or oven, and 
immediately put under the breakers whilst yet hot. Dr. Royle observes, it 
is probable that this method, when skilfully practised, must produce some of 
the same effects in hemp as in some other vegetable substances. Mr. Frushard 
remarks, with regard to the natives of India; " The reason why their tobacco 
falls so much to dust, is owing to its not being sweated enough. When 
properly sweated, as they manage it in America, it becomes tough like a 
bladder; and toughness and suppleness are the qualities wanted in hemo." 
(Wisset, p. 223). P 

Besides these, there is also the dry method of separating hemp in some 
places, as related by Mr. Durno, who was the British Consul at Memel, and 
who states that in the Southern parts of Poland, steeping is not practised at 
all, on the supposition that the harle is thereby weakened, and the color 
darkened. Instead of steeping, they there dry the stalks in the sun. But 
the dressing is more laborious, and consequently more expensive. Mr. Dickson 
(of England) has succeeded admirably in separating hemp fibre by passing 
dried stems from Italy under the rollers of his machine. 

Crop and Profit — Mr. Rowlandson says the best land for obtaining fibre of 
the strongest description is a fat loam, not too heavy with clay, and a portion 
of sand intermixed. On such land, succeeding a crop of beans, hemp will 
grow six or seven feet high, and bean stalks in such make good manure for 
hemp. He adds : " I have known 9 quarters of beans per acre after hemp, 
weighing 21 stone per sack. Hemp after beans will produce 30 stone more 
per acre, of the strongest and heaviest fibre, than by any other mode of cul- 
ture; the weight of fibre in ordinary culture and circumstances will produce 
60 to 70 stone per acre." A good crop of hemp after beans will produce 28 
to 30 bushels of seed per acre; in the ordinary way, 20 to 22 bushels per acre. 

_ The co-operation of purely manufacturing establishments will facilitate and 
give advantages to the production of hemp, as to that of flax. 

The following table shows the imports of hemp from Russia and the British 
territories in India, from 1847 to 1851. In the year 1831, 506,803 cwt 
were imported from Russia, and only 9,472 cwt. from the East Indies. 
Quantities of Hemp imported into the United Kingdom fvom 

~ . 1847. 1848. 1849. 1850. 1851. 

Russia 544,844 540,207 641,548 614,535 672 342 

Brit. Territories in E. Indies. 185,788 258,239 360,362 399,345 590,923 


Hemp at Petersburgh is assorted into clean hemp, or firsts; outshot hemp, 
or seconds; half-cleaned hemp, or thirds; and hemp codilla. Riga hemp is 
distinguished as rein (or clean), outshot, and pass hemp. 

Particular care is taken to ship hemp or flax in fine, dry weather. If either 
get wet, they are apt to heat, and to be totally spoiled. For this reason every 
vessel taking in hemp or flax is furnished with mats to prevent their getting 

A bundle of clean hemp weighs from 55 to 65 poods; ditto outshot, 48 to 
55 ditto; ditto half-clean, 40 to 45 ditto (1 pood = 30 lbs. avoirdupois). 

To every bundle of assorted hemp is attached a ticket, with the names of 
the selector, binder and owner, and the date and year. Every bundle has 
also affixed to it a piece of lead, stamped on one side with the name of the 
selector, and on the other with the sort of hemp and the time when it was 
selected. The external marks of good hemp are, its being of an equal green 
color, and free from spills ; but its good quality is proved by the strength of 
the fibre, which should be fine, thin and long. The first sort should be quite 
clean and free from spills; the outshot is less so; and the half-clean contains 
a still greater portion of spills, ard is moreover of mixed qualities and color?. 

As a perfect knowledge of the qualities of hemp and flax can only be 
acquired by experience and attention, agents usually employ men constantly 
occupied in this business ; by which means they are sure of getting goods of 
the best quality, and have the best chance of giving satisfaction to their 

The part separated or picked out in cleaning hemp, is called hemp codilla. 
— (^Borrisow on the Commerce of Petersburgh.') 

With regard to prices, those of hemp will of course vary at different times, 
like those of all other products. It is usually highest in the summer months, 
and lowest in September. 

In December, 1833, Petersburgh clean hemp was 25s. to 26s ; Riga rein 
at 29s. per cwt. 

In the year 1840, Italian hemp was at 50s. the cwt. ; Polish rein, 48s. ; 
Petersburgh clean, 47s; Petersburgh half-clean, 42s. 

At the end of 1854, Petersburgh clean, £50 10s. to £63 ; outshot, £59 to 
£61; half-clean, £57 10s.; Riga rein, £61 to £64. 



" The soil for hemp," says Olivier de Serres, should be fat, fertile, easy to 
work, and in a temperate climate/' It is found that it will do very well 
after turnips on friable loams and good sands, provided they be well manured 
Spalding Moor, in Lincolnshire, is a barren sand, and yet, with proper care 
and culture, it has produced as fine hemp as any in England. In the Isle of 
Axholme, in the same county, the culture and management of it has been 
the principal employment of the inhabitants; and accordiug to Leland it 
was so in the time of Henry VIII.. On sandy loams the quantity is not so 
great as in a black rich mould, but the quality is much finer, and therefore 
better adapted to the fabric of hempen cloth. Hemp, in short, delights in 
valleys and the banks of rivers. FresJi broken lands in the midst of woods 
and forests are favorable to its growth ; so also are gardens and other spots 
that have long been cultivated by the spade. The same is the case on a crop 
of hjoken up lucerne, on land in good heart, after a crop of oats has been 
taken ; on broken up pasture land, and fresh drained marshes, and newly 
emptied pools. Count Gallesio regards as the best composition of hemp land 
that which is composed of one-third of silex, one-third of lime and magnesia, 
and another third of clay. "This mixture/' he says, "forms a light soil, 
which does not harden and form a crust. The seed, sown thickly on such 
land as this, rises perfectly; the plants, finding themselves crowded, are una- 
ble to increase in bulk and breadth, and therefore shoot up lank and slender. 
Well rotted manure, acting immediately, favors and accelerates the develop- 
ment of the plant in an upward direction. " 

Hemp is esteemed a clearing crop, for it destroys all weeds that spring 
beneath it by overshadowing them and depriving them of their nourishment. 
As a general rule, it should not be too often repeated on the same ground. 
It may, however, be grown with success on the same land many years, by 
manuring annually; it is said it has been sown on the same for seventy 
years together. There is no doubt that by the unsparing use of fertilizers, 
almost any result can be obtained in gardening and agriculture. Hemp, if it 
stands for seed, is on all hands acknowledged to be an exhausting crop; but 
if it be cut or pulled without the seed, it is supposed by many to improve 
the land, and to be an excellent preparation for wheat. 

"British Husbandry" testifies to the same effect. "Opinions differ in 
regard to its effects upon the soil, some considering it as a great exhauster, 
and others only in case of its being allowed to stand for seed, but all agree in 
admitting it to be an effectual cleanser of the land, for it grows with such 


promptitude and strength that it destroys all the weeds which spring up 
under it. It therefore can never be sown along with grass-seeds ; but, for the 
same reason, it is found to be an admirable preparation for a crop of wheat, 
as the land must be previously brought into a state of garden culture, and, if 
heavily dunged, when treated in this manner, alternate crops of wheat and 
hemp have been successfully grown upon the same ground during a series of 


The Baron de Morogues, in his essay on the means of improving agricul- 
ture in France, observes that as hemp is sown late in spring, the land may 
be made to bear two crops in the year, by causing the hemp to be preceded 
by green food of some kind or other. Thus, in the Department of Maine-et- 
Loire, hemp is sown in May, immediately after a crop of raves, or large, 
yellow field radishes, which answer many of the purposes of turnips ; and in 
the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, it is made to follow a crop of escourgeon, 
or four- rowed winter barley, mowed green. 

Combining hemp and flax with the Norfolk four- course system, on rich and 
deep soils, a convenient rotation would run as follows : — 1st Turnips, fed 
off on the land by sheep ; 2nd. Barley, sown with grass or clover seeds ; 
3rd. Hay or pasture, for two years ; 4th. Flax, which never does better than 
on the upturned sod ; 5th. Turnips again, or beetroot, heavily manured, 
resting the land, and helping to make manure in turn ; 6th. Hemp ; 7th. 
Wheat. Between the flax and the root crop which follows it, it would be 
easy to steal a crop of green food (vetches and rye) to be cut or eaten on the 
land in early spring. 


The time of sowing hemp varies greatly according to the climate, ami in 
the same climate according to the locality. It extends as widely as from the 
month of March to the month of June. The grand rule is to avoid all 
danger of severe spring frosts, as the plant is liable to be affected by them. 
Still early sown hemp is always the best. Great care must be taken to sow 
none but last year's seed ; old seed will not come up at all, or at best very 
uncertainly. With hemp, as with flax, the question of thin or thick sowing 
must depend upon the object of the grower and the quality of the land. In 
fact, on middling land, hemp should be sown thinner than on heavy land. 
When it is wanted to procure a very long and fine sample of fibre, thick 
sowing is necessary ; because the stems then draw each other up, and even 
blanch each other to a certain degree, thereby causing the bark to be more 
delicate. Hemp which grows so wide apart as to throw out side branches, 
produces a large quantity of seed, and a very strong fibre, but which is only 
fit for ropes or the coarsest cloth. It has been found by experiments in 
England and America, that salt sown at the sa:ne time with the hemp-seed, 
acted as a beneficial stimulant. In the neighborhood of Bologna and Ferrara, 
in Itlay, where the culture of hemp is probably carried to greater perfection 
than anywhere else, where it is not uncommon to see hemp stalks rising from 
twelve to sixteen feet above the surface of the ground, it is usual to spread 
at the same time with the seed fecal matters, the dung of fowls, powdered 
oil-cake, and chips of horn and bone. 

In the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, which approaches very nearly to 
the climate of England, the rule is to sow hemp from the 10th to the 20th of 


May, at the same rate as is usual there for wheat and flax, namely, a hectolitre 
to a mesure of forty-two ares twenty cenlaires, more rather than less, in case 
any portion of the seed should fail to vegetate. This answers as near as may 
be to the proportion of two bushels to the acre. 

It is a well-known fact that the most substantial manures, if they are not 
well rotted, produce a less active effect on the growth of hemp than the 
simplest fertilizers, which have been reduced to a state of extreme division. 
Hemp has short and slender roots ; it springs up, grows, and comes to 
maturity within a very brief space of time; it therefore requires to find its 
nourishment readily prepared and easily absorbed. On this account all sorts 
of vegetable manures are found to answer so well. The Italian hemp-growers 
are fond of ploughing in green crops, such as field radishes, and lupines, as 
manure for their hemp, and thereby obtain both quantity and quality in their 

As all sorts of graniverous birds are passionately fond of hemp seed, it is 
indispensable to protect the new-sown fields, or to have them watched by 

M. Bose relates a curious fact, which some would pronounce incredible. A 
Piedmontese farmer, M. Barberis, having a hemp-field seriously injured by 
hail, cut half of it to the level of the ground, and left the other half standing 
for the sake of comparison. The portion cut yielded a crop, not only more 
abundant tban the other, but more than the same extent of ground would 
yield in seasons when no hail had fallen. 

The hemp crop is not all gathered at once, the male plants being generally 
pulled a few weeks before the female or seed bearers. This usually occurs 
towards the middle of August. Their ripeness is known by their turning 
yellow at the top and white at the root, and by the general tendency of thy 
whole plant to wither. Those who are over anxious about the quality of their 
fibre are apt to pull the male plants too green. In this state they produce a 
sample which is excellent for the manufacture of cloth ; but if the hemp is to 
stand for seed, it is better to let the mule plants remain till they have shed 
their dust, without the influence of which the seed will prove abortive, and be 
worthless both for the oil mill, and for birds' food. An acre of hemp on 
rich soil will produce something like three quarters of seed, a matter of some 
importance. If the crop be destined for spinning only, without any regard 
to the seed, the male and female plants are pulled together as " Maiden hemp/' 
about thirteen or fourteen weeks after seed time ; the plan has this advantage, 
that the crop comes off the ground sufficiently early in some climates for 
turnips to follow it, or better, that the farmer is allowed full leisure to make 
due preparation for a erop of wheat. The separation, however, of the male 
and female plants is not universally, though it is generally observed. It is 
sometimes neglected partly from the fear of the injury which the pullers 
would do to the remaining plants by crushing and breaking them when they 
stand thick, and also because the work has to be done at. a busy time of year 
wnen there are plenty of other things to think of. When the hemp is pulled, 
it is bound in small bundles of such a size as may be grasped in both hands, 
and tied together with bands, at each end; they are then set leaning head to 
head against each other in the field to dry. In the Pas-de-Calais, the female 
or seed bearing plants when gathered after the males are disposed of, have 
their heads knotted into wisps to keep the seed from falling off (which it is 


very apt to do), and also to make it heat slightly; for which purpose it is 
sometimes even wetted a little, after thrashing, and subjected to the same 
granary treatment as is practised on rape and colza seeds, to cause them to 
mature their oil. There are many ways of thrashing the seed, or rather of 
removing it from ofF the stalk. • In some places, large cloths are spread in the 
field, and the heads are laid on a bench standing on the cloth, and are beaten 
with sticks; in others, the heads are beaten over a tub with its head staved 
in. Nowhere is the flail employed, least it should crush the seed. 

Hemp seed is winnowed like wheat, and put in the granary in small heaps, 
which should be shifted oceasionaly to dry it thoroughly. 

In large towns, the consumption of hemp seed for cage birds is very con- 
siderable. Hemp seed oil is excellent for burning in lamps j it is used in 
painting and the manufacture of soft soap. The oil cake left after the crushing 
process is eaten with avidity by many domestic animals, and is often employed 
as manure. 

The thrashing over, the hemp is ready to undergo the important operation 
of steeping. When hemp is of the tallest kind, the plan of pulling it ought 
to be rejected, and it should be cut by a scythe, or reaping machine. 


The importance which the culture of hemp has attained in the north of 
Italy is well known ; and a detailed account of the mode of steeping which 
the hand-working peasants make use of there, will be interesting to lay before 
the reader. The translation is from the French of M. de Crud, who has 
described them in his u Economic de 1' Agriculture." 

" Hemp ponds, or routoirs, are usually dug in the earth, sufficiently deep beneath the 
surface of the soil to keep them always full of water. These ponds are provided, over 
their whole extent, with stakes driven into the earth to the depth of seven or eight feet, 
to prevent their being pulled up by the effort which the hemp makes to rise to the sur- 
face of the water. They are also fixed in regular rows, about six feet apart ; and as they 
support, not far from their top, wooden cross-bars, about six inches broad, and an inch 
and a half thick, which stretch from one to the other in the same direction, they form a 
sort of alleys in the water. These stakes ought not to rise higher than just a trifle 
below the usual level of the water, to prevent them decaying from the alternate action 
of dryness and moisture. The pond is ordinarily about five feet deep, except near the 
edge, where there is made a sort of bank of planks. On this bank the workmen walk, 
up to their waste in water, for the purpose of washing the hemp before taking it out of 
the routoir. 

'• To steep the hemp, they place in these alleys the bundles, as carefully sorted as pos" 
sible. The bundles are laid lengthwise in the alleys, and as many are brought in as wiP 
fill the whole breadth of the alley a couple of bundles deep. They then take pieces of 
wood, of the same dimensions as the cross bars, and about a foot longer than the breadth 
of the alleys. One of the ends of the piece of wood is introduced beneath one of the 
ends of the cross-bars which enclose the alley, passing over the bundles of hemp ; then, 
by pressing the other end down, they force the hemp to sink in the water, till the other 
end can be slipped under the cross-bar which is nearest to it. It is evident that the 
cross-bar obliges the hemp, in spite of its buoyancy, to sink in the water and to remain 
submerged. Each end of the bundles of hemp must be held down by one of thase 
pieces of wood. Up to this point, all the operations connected with the steeping are 
performed by men, who walk upon the tops of the stakes, on the cross-bars, and on the 
hemp itself, without going into the water. These men make use of poles, furnished with 
iron hooks at their end, to lay hold of the bundles and arrange them in the water 
according to their convenience. 

" There are a few ponds on a different plan : instead of driving in stakes, and making 
wooden benches, no more is done than to pave the bottom, or to line it with bricks and 


masonry. All round it the sides are kept up by walls, also of masonry, and the hemp 
is sunk in the water by means of great stones laid on the top of it. This is the plan 
adopted in Spain. 

" When the hemp-grower has no pond, of either one sort or the other, he steeps his 
crop in runs of water, and in the bed of rivers, fastening it with ropes, for fear any 
sudden flood should carry his property away with it; or sometimes in ponds that have 
been dug for the purpose, in which the bundles of hemp are made to sink by loading 
them with earth, which has been taken from the bottom of the pond itself. Hemp 
which has been steeped in this last mentioned way is always much more dark-colorea, 
and its fibre is often sold for one-sixth less than the other sort. In those ponds which 
are not fitted up with stakes, the workmen who set the hemp to steep are obliged to 
work in the water. 

" Four days after steeping has commenced, it is necessary to inspect the hemp, and to 
try if the fibre comes away easily from the woody part. It is very essential to seize 
the moment when that change takes place; for twelve hours passed in the rouissoir 
beyond the necessary time, would considerably injure the quality and the strength of 
the fibre. About the sixth day the steeping is generally complete ; but that depends 
greatly upon the weather and the temperature. If a very strong fibre is required, in 
preference to a very sightly sample, the hemp ought to be taken out of the water as 
soon as the fibre begins to detach itself, when the hemp-stalk is broken. If, on the con- 
trary, good-looking rather than strong hemp is required, it is left in the pond for twelve 
or eighteen hours longer. 

" The next step to be taken is the washing. A party of women, dressed in wretched 
rags, step into the pond, and stand upon the bank which has been purposely built : there 
they are up to the middle in water. Men (if the pond is stake'd, but if not, the women 
themselves) then unfasten the bundles of hemp by breaking the bands with which they 
are tied, in order to separate the bunches from each other. The women then, seizing 
these smaller bunches with their two hands, and raising them several times as high as 
their arms can conveniently reach, dash them horizontally with their whole strength 
upon the water, turning them round a little each time, in order that every part of the 
bunch may feel the effects of the blow. This operation detaches almost the whole of the 
fibre from the woody part of the hemp, and at the same time cleanses it from the mould 
and filth which hang to it. After having repeated these knockings of the hemp on the 
water for three or four times, the workwoman seizes the bunch by the little end, and 
driving it through the water in the opposite direction, thereby causes the fibre to be 
detached from the lower extremity of the stem; then, rolling the bunch in the water, 
she causes the separated fibre to twist itself round the bunch, with the object that when 
the hemp is set out to drain and dry, the fibre may not come in contact with the soil. 
All the steeping ponds are surrounded by pasture land, to serve at the proper season as 
drying grounds for the hemp. After having washed each bunch in the way we have 
just described, the woi'kwoman throws it on the green turf; a workman seizes it and 
sets it on its big end. It supports itself by leaning against the other bundles. In that 
position the hemp drains. About one o'clock in the afternoon the women come out of 
the rouissoir, dress themselves in dry clothes, eat their dinner, and then proceed to 
drying the hemp. 

" The women now, if they have not done so before, push to the upper end of each 
bunch the band with which it was tied round the middle; and opening every bunch at 
the bottom, they spread the stalks that are standing on the grass with their heads aloft 
and leaning together, almost in the same way as a pile of muskets. The hemp is thus 
perfectly exposed to the sun and air ; nevertheless, even when no rain happens to fall — 
a circumstance greatly to be desired, especially to preserve the beauty of the fibre — it 
takes two days at the very least to dry it completely. If high wind comes on, the 
bunches out drying are often blown down, and must be set up again as quickly as pos- 
sible. Towards evening, the hemp which has attained the necessary degree of dryness 
is loaded on carts, and carried to the hemp barn. 

" It will be remembered that the hemp is often four yards long, and more, even after 
the top is cut off, because the fibre which that part would give is nearly worthless. 
This great length is necessarily accompanied by a certain degree of thickness, which 
makes it impossible to clean the stems by means of ordinary scutches, like those used 
for flax, unless they were made of such a size and weight as would render their use im- 
practicable in any other hands than those of a giant. Recourse is therefore had to the 
following method : — An upright wooden block is fixed in the earth, about a foot broad 


and three feet long at its upper surface, which is cut out in such a way as to leave it of 
the form of a hollow crescent. Moreover, the edges of this rude crescent are smoothed 
and rounded so as to present to the fibre a completely even and regular surface. A 
workman then takes the bunches one after the other, and, beginning by presenting them 
by the thicker end, he lays them on the block and pushes them forward, so as always 
to have six or seven inches of unbroken stalk beyond the block. Meanwhile, a couple 
of women, armed with hard, thick sticks, especially clumsy towards the end, something 
in the style of clubs, beat the end of the bunch as the workman pushes it forward. A 
single blow is sufficient to crush it, so that if the bunch is twelve feet long, it requires 
about ten blows from each woman to crush it, the upper extremity which the workman 
holds in his hand not being subjected to the operation. If the people are expert in this 
work, a minute will be more than time enough to crush three such bunches. As soon 
as the man who holds the bunch has advanced it nearly to the end, he leaves hold of it 
with one hand to seize another, in order to substitute it for the former one the moment 
he has finished it, and to continue the operation without interruption. That the work- 
man who lays the bunches on the block may continue that task, the woman who brings 
him the bundles of hemp takes care to place them ready to his hand. The fibre often 
comes out of this operation completely divested of the woody stem throughout the 
whole of its length, except at the extremity which the workman held in his hand. Two 
other scutchings or beatings take place with smaller tools. At the last one, the work- 
man is not content with beating the fibre ; he pulls it while it is pressed with his tools, 
to soften it and clear it from any knots and bits of chaff that may still remain adhering 
to it. The fibre is then folded in two, and packed in bales to be delivered to the 

The following judicious observations are from the Abbe Rozier, relative to 
the sanitory precautions desirable to be observed with steeping ponds: 

" Whether the water is stagnant or running, and in whatever spot the routoir may be 
situated, it is essential to plant rows of trees around it. Poplars are preferable to any 
others. One of the grand agents which nature employs for the purification of the 
atmosphere, is the vegetation of plants and trees. They feed upon the impure air given 
out by steeping ponds, appropriate it, and in return give back pure air to the atmos- 
phere. But even with this resource at hand, it will be seen that the establishment of 
routoirs in the vicinity of dwelling houses is an extremely unhealthy and imprudent 
practice, since the trees cannot entirely absorb the enormous mass of mephitic air which 
escapes from hemp in a state of putrid fermentation. Spots ought to be elected which 
are exposed to the wind and open to violent currents of air. 

" It is useless to make steeping ponds too broad, at least they are very inconvenient- 
I should prefer extending them in length, whenever required, particularly if they are to 
serve for a community of hemp-groweis. In that case, every individual finds his own 
place, without disturbing that ot his neighbour, and a smaller quantity of water is 
required. The bottom ought to be paved, with a slope towards the place where the 
water is let out. There ought, indeed, to be a double outlet, one at the surface and one 
at the bottom, either to be used as occasion may render convenient. The sides should 
slope with so steep an inclination as to allow the workpeople to approach with ease, 
and not be obliged to enter the water in order to arrange or alter anything in the hemp 
heap, as will be necessarily wanted from time to time. The sides, if not built of stone 
or brickwork, should be covered with cement of sufficient thickness. The mud taken 
every year out of the bottom of the steeping place, makes excellent manure." 

Mechanical processes have been proposed as a substitute for the water- 
retting of hemp. But the reason why these machines must ever be incom 
petent to perform the office required of them, is clearly explained by the 
Count Gallesi, the author of an excellent Italian memoir on the culture and 
manipulation of hemp and flax : 

" Maceration," he says, " is an operation indispensable to obtain from the hemp plant 
a tissue suitable for making cloth. It may be said that it can be dispensed with in the 
case of hemp for rope-making. I do not admit the supposition ; but even granting it, 
the same thing cannot be admitted with regard to hemp destined for cloth. The bark 
of the hemp is the portion which furnishes the tissue ; it is composed of an infinity of 
longtitudinal fibres, lying one over the other, and joined together not only by the force 
of adhesion proper to vegetable tissue, but still more strongly by a sort of gummy 


substance, which unites it to the woody part. No mechanism whatever can clear the 
rind from this substance, and still less the woody stem, which also contains it." 

In the Pas de Calais, where hemp grows only to the same moderate height 
which it attains in Great Britain, the stems are not scutched or beaten, like 
flax, to obtain the fibre, but it is peeled off by hand. This work is performed 
during their evenings, by work people, together with their whole families, 
who employ themselves in hemp-peeling when their day's work is done. A 
child of four or five years old is capable of executing the task. The head of 
the hemp stalk is simply broken with the fingers, and the whole of the fibre 
comes away with it at once. The string of fibre is thrown on one side, and 
the denuded hemp stalk is cast on the other to make sulphur matches with, 
for which purpose it is in great demand, the consumption for pipe-lighting 
being enormous in France. The match makers buy their bundles of naked 
stalks in pairs, one bunch of male, and one of female stems, that is, of shorts 
and longs. Each individual can earn two sous, or a penny, per evening by 
hemp peeling. The people are satisfied if it pays them for their candle and 
their tobacco. 



It has been long discovered that we may obtain length by twisting fibres 
together, when they press upon each other, so that any single fibre is unab'e to 
overcome the resistance caused by the friction upon it of surrounding fibres. 
It will then break more readily than slip out from the mass. By this means 
a certain degree of compactness is also obtained, so that the infiltration of 
water is prevented, and the rope preserved from decomposition. Though a 
certain degree of twist is essential, any excess is injurious; for a rope may 
be so twisted as to break in the operation, and therefore a rope, brought up 
to this point without breaking, would be unable to bear any further strain, 
or to support any weight at all, and consequently be useless. Great precau- 
tions are therefore necessary in twisting the fibres, so that they shall retain as 
much as possible of their origiual strength, and be preserved from sustaining 
any further injury. 

In making a rope, the first operation is to twist a certain portion of the 
fibres into a thick thread, which is called a, yarn. These yarns vary in size, 
from one twelfth to a little above one-ninth of an inch in diameter. They 
are then warped, or stretched so that they may bear any strain equally. The 
next process is to twist a number of yarns, say from fifteen to twenty-five, 
into a strand. The twist of the strand is in an opposite direction to that of 
the yarn of which it is composed, in order that any tendency in the yarns to 
untwist may be counteracted by an opposite tendency in the strand. Three 
of these strands are formed into a rope, and three ropes into a cable. The 
term rope is generally confined to those which are above an inch in circum- 
ference; those which are less being called twine, line, and cord ; though some 
of the latter terms are used with less strictness, as fishing lines and clothes 


lines are of very different diameters. Other kinds are distinguished by the 
name of ratline or of lashing ; sometimes they are distinguished by the weight 
of a certain quantity — thus, pound line signifies a line weighing 60 yards to 
the pound ; 160 fathoms of white or untarred yarn weigh from two and a 
half to four pounds. 

In a popular work by Mr. Tomlinson, the different operations of rope- 
making are described as follow : — 1. Heckling, or hackling, of which the 
object is to separate the short fibres or tow, and to straighten the long ones, 
in order to enable them to run freely in spinning. 2. Spinning, or twisting 
the fibres into threads or yarns. 3. Tawing the yarns. 4. Twisting the 
yarns into strands. 5. Laying, or twisting three strands together, so as to 
form what is called a hawser-laid rope. In this process, which is called the 
first lay, each strand consists of as many yarns as are found requisite to give 
the required thickness to the rope. 6. Second lay, or shroud hawser-laid 
rope. This consists of four strands laid in the same way and under the same 
conditions. This rope has a straight loose strand, consisting frequently of 
only a few yarns running through its centre; the object of this core-piece 
being to render the rope solid. 7. Third lay, or cable-laid rope. This con- 
sists of three hawser-laid ropes, each formed of three large strands, twisted or 
laid together in one gigantic rope or cable. 

A very important consideration is the benefit or injury which is derived 
from a large or a small quantity of tar, because this, instead of being a 
preservative in all situations, as is generally supposed, is very often injurious, 
as is fully illustrated by the following experiments. The abridged account of 
these is taken from Sir D. Brewster's " Edinburgh Encyclopaedia. " 

It was long ago shown by Dr. Hooke, from several experiments on the 
strength of cordage in 1669, that the strength of the component parts of the 
rope was diminished by twisting. This fact, indeed, has been long practically 
known to sailors, who are familiar with the superior strength of rope yarns 
when made up into a salvage, which is nothing more than a skein without 
twisting. Salvages are invariably used for slinging great guns, rolling tackles, 
and for every kind of work where great strength and great pliancy are required. 

In the " Memoirs of the Academy of Sciences," M. Reaumur has given an 
account of his experiments on the strength of ropes compared with that of 
their parts. 

2. The yarn of a skein of white thread bore each, at an average, 9f lb. 
Two yarns twisted slack into a cord broke with 16 lb. 

Hence we have the absolute strength of two yarns 19£ lb. 

Real strength 16 

Loss of strength by twisting 3| 

3. The average strength of some thread was such that each broke with 8 lb., whereas 
when three were twisted, they bore only 11% lb. 

Hence we have absolute strength 24 lb. 

Real strength .• 11% 

Loss of strength by twisting , 6£ 

4. The average strength of some thread was such, that each broke with 1% lb., whereas 
when four were twisted they broke with 21^ lb. 

Hence we have absolute strength 30 lb. 

Real strength 21£ 

Loss of strength by twisting 8% 


5. The .average strength of other four threads was such that each broke with 9 lb., 
whereas when twisted, they broke with 22 lb. 

Hence we have absolute strength #. . . 86 lb. 

Real strength ; 22 

Loss of strength by twisting 14 

6. A well made and small hempen cord broke in different places with 58, 63, 67, and 
72 lb., so that its average strength was — — — j = 65 lb. The cord consisted 

of three strands, and another part of it was' untwisted, and its three strands separated. 
One of them bore 29|, another 33|, and the third 35. 

Hence the absolute strength of the three strands, when separated, is 98 lb. 
Real strength when twisted 65 

Loss by twisting 33 

7. Another part of the same cord, which broke with 72 lb., was separated into its 
strands, when they bore 26, 28, and 30 lb. 

Hence we have absolute strength 84 lb. 

Real strength 72 

— « 
Loss by twisting 12 

Dr. Eobison has given an account of a very interesting experiment by 
Sir Charles Knowles, upon a piece of of white or untarred rope 3£ inches in 
circumference. It was cut into many portions, and from each of those por- 
tions a fathom was taken off, and carefully opened out. It consisted of 72 
3 T arns, each of which was examined separately, and found to bear 90 lb. at an 
average for the whole Each piece of rope corresponding to these was 
examined separately, and the mean strength of the same pieces was 4,552 lb. 

Hence we have absolute strength of yarns 6,480 lb. 

Real strength 4,552 

Loss of strength by twisting 1,928 

As the diminution of strength in the yarns demonstrated by the preceding 
example, obviously arises from their position when twisted, in consequence 
of which they do not all bear the load at the same time ) and not from any 
permanent weakness produced by the twisting, it became reasonable to believe, 
that the twist given to ropes should be as moderate as possible. 

The degree of twist commonly employed was such that the rope was two- 
thirds the length of the yarns which composed it. M. Du Hamel,* who 
made many valuable experiments on this subject, in the royal dock-yards of 
France, caused some rope to be worked with only three-fourths of the length of 
the ynrn. This last rope with the inferior degree of twist, bore 5,187 lb., 
whereas the other bore only 4,321 lb. He next caused these ropes to be 
made with different twists, and obtained the following results : — 

Weight borne by each. 

Degree of twist. One experiment. Another experiment. 

f 4,098 4,250 

£ 4,850 6,753 

| 6,205 7,397 

* 'Trait6 de la Fabrique des Manoeuvres pour les Vaisseaux, on ?Art de la Cordiere 


So far these experiments were highly satisfactory; but it still remained to 
be seen, whether or not the ropes which had an inferior degree of twist, had 
not also an inferior degree of useful solidity, notwithstanding their superiority 
of strength in carrying weights. 

In order to determine this point, M. Du Hamel had a considerable quantity 
of rigging made with yarns wrought up into only three-fourths of their length, 
and got them put into actual use on ship-board, during a whole campaign. 
The report given by the officers of the ship was highly satisfactory. They 
proved that the ropes thus manufactured were one-fourth lighter than the 
common kind; that they were nearly one-eighth more slender, so as to give 
less hold to the wind; that, from their being more pliant than the common 
ones, they run easier through the blocks, and did not run into what are 
technically called kinks ; that the new cordage required fewer hands to work 
it, in the proportion of two to three; and that it was at least one-fourth 

Wherever ropes are not exposed to short bendings, as in the case of standing 
rigging, where they can be defended from water by tarring, &c, the least 
twisted ^cordage may be advantageously employed, and should, according to 
M. Duhamel's experiments, be made from strands; for it is demonstrable 
that in fine stranded cordage, when the twist of the strands is exactly equal 
to the twist in the laying, the strands lie less obliquely to the axis than in 
other ropes, and therefore bear a greater load. 

In examining the strength of cordage, 3£ inches in circumference and 
under, M. Duhamel found that the strength increased a little faster than the 
number of equal threads, thus : — 

Ropes of 9 threads bore 1,014, instead of 946 lbs. 
12 1,564, 1,262 

18 2,148, 1,893 

According to the experiments of Mr. Huddart, no strength is lost in the 
common way when there are only three yarns in the strand. When there are 
more than three yarns, the loss is one-sixth, and with a hundred yarns it is 
about one-half. 

The following rule is given by Dr Robison for obtaining the strength of 
ropes : 

Multiply the circumference of the rope in inches by itself and the fifth 
part of the product will be the number of tons which the rope will carry. 

For example, if the rope is 6 inches in circumference, we have 6 times 6, 
= 36, the fifth of which is 1\ tons. 

Tarring Ropes. — There is no branch of the rope manufacture more impor- 
tant than that which relates to the tarring of the cordage. The following 
experiments were therefore made byM. Du Hamel, on the relative strength of 
tarred and white or untarred cordage : 

August 8th, 1741. 
Untarred Rope. Tarred Rope. Difference. 

Broke with 4,500 pounds 3,400 pounds 1,100 

4,900 3,300 1,600 

4,800 3,250 1,550 



April 2oth, 1743. 

Broke with 4,600 pounds 3,500 pounds 

5,000 3.400 

5,000 3,100 


September 3rd, 1746. 

Broke with 3,800 pounds 3,000 pounds 800 

4,000 2,700 1,300 

4,200 2,800 1,400 

The ropes with which the preceding experiments were made, were three 
French inches in circumference, and were made of the best Riga hemp. 

M. Du Hamel next examined the relative strength of a parcel of tarred and 
untarred cordage, which had been manufactured on the 12th July, 1746. It 
had been laid up in the store-house, and the following results were obtained 
at the dates mentioned : 




of time in 




1746. April 14th 

1747. May 18th 

1747. October 21st . . 

1748. June 19th 

1748. October 2nd... 

1749. September 25th 






















From these results M. Du Hamel concludes :- 

1. That untarred cordage in constant service is one-third more durable 
than the same when tarred. 

2. That untarred cordage retains its strength for a much longer time when 
it is kept in store. 

3. That untarred cordage resists the ordinary injuries of the weather one- 
fourth longer than when it is tarred. 

These results of direct experiments have been confirmed by the observa- 
tions of seamen ; but they have invariably found that untarred cordage is 
weaker than tarred cordage, when it is exposed to be alternately wet and dry ; 
that tarred cordage is chiefly useful for cables and ground tackle which must 
be constantly soaked in water ; and that cordage superficially tarred, is 
always stronger than what is thoroughly tarred, and resists better the alternate 
conditions of dryness and wetness. 

Several important experiments on the relative strength of tarred and un- 
tarred ropes were made by Mr. W. Chapman*, chiefly with the view of 
determining the effects of his method of preserving ropes with purified or 
washed tar. Three pieces of rope were made on the 10th of August, 1808, 
of 12 threads in each strand. The first was an untarred rope, the second a 
rope made of washed tarred yarn, and the third a common tarred rope. A 
part of each of these ropes had their strength tried on the breaking machine; 
and another part was steeped in water for about three months, and then taken 
to a foundry stove, which is supposed to have been at about 130° of Fahrenheit. 
They remained in the stove above three months. After that they lay at Mr. 

* Author of " Treatise on the progressive endeavors to improve the Manufacture and 
Duration of Cordage," London, 1808. 



Chapman's ropery till November 3, 1803, when the following experiments 
were made with them : — 

[When made, 

Aug. 10th, 


Nov. 3, 1803. Po , rti °n ^ original 
' strenth retained. 

White rope 

Common tarred rope 
Washed tarred rope . 






The tarred ropes were both brittle; but the latter was more so, and they 
both cracked on bending. 

Mr. Chapman has also observed that though cordage is injured by tarriug 
in cold climates, it is much mure rapidly so in hot climates. 

The following experiments were made in 1807 by Mr. Chapman, for the 
purpose of showing the injury arising from the retention of that portion of 
the essential oil which cannot be dispensed with, and also the injury which 
arises from the progressive disengagement of the acid of essential oil : 

Weight with 
which it broke 
when moist. 

Weight with which it broke 
after exposure to a stove 
for four months. 

Untarred rope 

Rope tarred with cold tar . . 
Hope tarred with boiled tar 



The first column shqws the strength of the rope when made j and the 
second after having been exposed to the heat of a stove from 85° to 100° 

The following experiments, also made by Mr. Chapman, confirm those 
made by Duhamel, respecting the diminution in the strength of cordage pro- 
duced by tarring. The ropes were registered on the improved principle, and 
were made with the same yarn, and with 17 threads in each strand. 

Girt in 

1806. October 2, White rope I 2.75 

1806. October 24, Tarred rope | 2.8 

1807. May 8, Same rope I 2.8 




Broke with 

.. . 75 








The following experiments were made with ropes made of the same yarns, 
and of nine in each strand. 

Girt in 


White rope 

Tar of whale oil 
Tar and "tallow. . 
Tar unpurified . . 




1 1.7 


Broke with 27. 5 

22. 5 

17. 5 






"Whale oil and tallow have therefore an excellent effect, particularly the 

The following experiments were made by Mr. Chapman on the elasticity 
of ropes of different kinds, when strained with seven-eighths of their break- 
ing stress : 


Length when 

Registered primary strands.. . . 
Registered shroud laid ropes . . 
Common made shroud laid rope 
Registered cable laid rope .... 


24| to 25 
26 to 26$ 
27$ to 28 

2V to 27-| 

The three kinds of rope last mentioned stretched on an average 1 inch in 
2-4 with a fifth of their breaking stress, which is from ? to § ib. of the whole 
stretching of the registered shroud laid ropes, but only from f ths to £th of 
the stretching of the common made shroud ropes. 

In May, 1805, Sir Joseph Banks, being anxious to try teak tar for ropes, 
two three-inch ropes were made of the same yarns, one with teak tar, and the 
other with common tar. They were then placed in the same storehouse, and 
were broken Sept. 28th, 1807. Common tarred rope broke with 3,848 lbs.; 
That made with teak tar broke with 5,980 lbs. The common tarred rope 
being only about two-thirds the strength of the other. 



It will be interesting to make some extracts from the valuable report of the 
Commission appointed under an Act of Congress approved February 25th, 
1863, " for investigations to test the practicability of cultivating and preparing 
flax or hemp as a substitute for cotton." 

All European writers recommend the harvesting of flax to be done by 
pulling. This process is considered in America to be slow, tedious, and 
expensive ; and where flax is grown on a large scale by individual proprietors, 
it is impossible to procure the labor necessary to pull it. They, therefore, 
have recourse to machinery, and the improved harvesters are adjusted so as 
to cut the crop close to the surface of the ground. Several pulling machines 
have, also, been invented, which do their work more or less satisfactorily. 

" The annual production of hemp fibre in the United States, as reported in the last 
census, amounts to eighty-seven thousand one hundred and ninety tons, of which eighty- 
three thousand two hundred and forty-seven tons were dew-rotted, and only three 
thousand nine hundred and forty-three tons were water-rotted. There is a decided 
.preference among the manufacturers for the water-rotted material, and the navy regula- 
tions indicate that experience considers this the preferable mode of preparation. But 
few of our farmers are willing to take the trouble to adopt this process ; indeed few have 
the necessary skill and appliances ; but it would be performed to much better advantage 
by those who make it their especial business, and who have prepared suitable vats for 
the purpose. Some of our correspondents in Illinois appear to have made extensive 
vats, with the expectation of rotting largely. This is a suitable subdivision of labor. 

" From the kindness of Mr. H. F. Driller, assistant secretary of the Board of Trade at 
the Merchant's Exchange, St. Louis, we have learned the product of hemp in that State 
for three years to be as follows : 

In 1 862, arrived at this port 88,720 bales. 

" arrived at other ports, about "22,100' " 

Total 110,820 bales. 

In 1863, arrived at this port 68,131 bales. 

" arrived at other ports 1*7,000 " 

Total 85,131 " 

In 1864, estimated at this port "... 74,150 bales. 

" estimated at other ports 20,100 " 

Total "94,250 " 

Total in three years 290,201 bales. 

Average per year 96,733£ bales. 


" Kentucky and Missouri are the two leading States in which this crop has always 
been of considerable importance. 

" Farmers generally complain of hemp that it is a hard crop to deal with, on account 
of the manual labour which it requires, but it is also urged that it is uncertain in its 
results because of the fluctuations of the market value. Its chief value is for cordage, 
bagging, and sail-cloth, but the fibre is very similar to that of flax; the ultimate cells 
are almost identical under the microscope, and it is applicable to the preparation of linen 
cloths. The manufacture of bagging and bale-rope in Kentucky having been mostly 
suspended, since the withdrawal or suspension of the demands of the cotton-fields, the 
extent of the crop has also been diminished, and the fibre has been largely worked into 
tow, and shipped in the bale to eastern and European factories. 


" When they were considering the subject of treating the flax-straw by any of the 
chemical operations to which it has been subjected for the purpose of aiding the separa- 
tion and preparation of the fibres, whether these consisted of dew-rotting, water-rotting, 
or other more scientific or more elaborate processes, the commission endeavoured to set 
forth the great importance of a proper sub-division of labour, so that the farmer, with 
his manifold and pressing cares, might be relieved from the responsibility of conducting 
these delicate operations, for which, indeed, he is not always qualified. Here again we 
desire to urge upon those engaged in making arrangements for further treatment of the 
material by the mechanical handling of the straw, and its conversion into the beautiful 
fibre, the great advantage that will result from a separation of these duties from those 
appropriate to the farm. Indeed it is so apparent to us that the rotting and breaking of 
flax are truly manufacturing processes, required skillful labour and experienced manage- 
ment, that the continuance of their assignment to the farm labourer can only be viewed as 
a remnant of those peculiarities of the early stages of civilization which are here and there 
found to cling to us in an advanced condition of society. In former times the farmer, with 
the assistance of his family, was obliged to produce the raw material, to prepare it for 
manufacturing, to spin, and to weave it upon his own premises ; but as we advance from 
such a primitive condition, the better subdivision of labour is progressively introduced, 
and we believe, as stated on a previous page, that the farmer's duty should always end 
with the harvesting of the crop, the separation of the seed, and the delivery of the straw 
to the manufacturer. In portions of Belgium, to which country we may well look for 
the highest degree of development in the preparation of flax, since there the finest fabrics 
are produced, we find that the ownership of the crop is transferred from the agriculturist 
to the manufacturer as soon as its prospective value can be safely estimated, and this is 
immediately after it has blossomed in the field; so that the farmer's duties and interests 
germinate at a still earlier period than that we have recommended to our countrymen. 

" Notwithstanding our urgent desire for a proper subdivision of the labours of the pro- 
duction from those of the preparation of flax, and other textile plants, we know that in 
many parts of the country, where flax and hemp may be profitably grown by the farmer, 
the mechanic has not yet made his appearance with the needed machinery for operating 
upon the product. Indeed, the raw material is not to be found in sufficient quantities 
to justify the erection of large establishments for its preparation in many regions where 
it is and should be grown. Therefore we congratulate those isolated farmers who may 
be induced to cultivate this class of crops upon the fact that our ingenious mechanics 
have already provided for their wants by inventing and erecting farm machines, of 
moderate capacity and reasonable expense, which will enable individuals so situated to 
utilize their products, and put them into a condition that will bear transportation to 
market, or that will readily prepare them for home consumption. 

" The most successful application of machinery to this subject that we have seen, is 
the arrangement of fluted rollers, with an oscillating motion backward and forward, but 
advancing more than it retrogrades. This is the Mallory <fc Sanford machine, which 
they call 'a portable flax and hemp dresser.' Owing to the peculiar form and motion 
of the rollers, the boon is crushed into shives of less than a quarter of an inch in length, 
and the harl is rubbed off from the straw with very little breaking of the filaments, 
while at the same time the shives are nearly all shaken out of the flax, which is broken 
and scutched at the same operation, and appears to need very little after scutching to 
finish it. This machine saves a great deal of fibre ; indeed, there is scarcely any found 
with the shives, which are nearly clean, instead of being, as they are often seen, a tan- 
gled mass of filaments and shives about the brakes. 

" The latest modification of this apparatus, wherein the rollers are arranged in a ver- 
tical series fed from above, was tested in the presence of the commission with very 


satisfactory results, and they do not hesitate to declare that the work was performed 
rapidly and well. The apparatus was new, and therefore some allowance should be 
made for its working capacity. The large machine is said to require a driving force 
equal to two horse-powers, and its capacity for work is estimated at one and one-eighth 
tons of straw per day. The makers of this machine in its later or upright form, with a 
succession of fluted rollers placed horizontally and set one above the other, when they 
use two breakers and one finisher combined, all feeding from above, claim that they can 
produce one thousand pounds of clean fibre per diem, with the assistance of four hands 
to the brakes, one hand to scutch, and two boys to assist. 

"As originally constructed, we have heard it objected to these machines that their 
mechanism involved a hard motion, and apprehensions were felt that the machinery 
might give way. At an establishment in Pennsylvania, it was stated that four scutchers 
were needed to cleanse the fibre produced by three workmen, running three thousand 
pounds of straw each day through one machine. We cannot help thinking that this 
result, so different from our own observations, and from the testimony of many practical 
workmen who have adopted these machines, must have arisen from a want of experience 
in the labourers, and from their attempt to put through too much straw ; and that, had 
they attempted to break less, they would have found the scutching a small matter, with 
revolving knives. 

" Messrs. Mallory & Sanford's machines have been recommended for breaking straight 
straw for tne preparation of long-line, and as being equally well adapted for the break- 
ing of the most tangled flax, that it comes from the threshing floor. It is also claimed 
that they will separate the shives from green or unretted straw more perfectly than 
any other apparatus. Specimens on exhibition, and others broken in our presence, are 
entirely satisfactory evidence that such breaking can be done where desirable, though 
at the expense of a partial rupture of the filaments themselves, which, in the preparation 
of long-line, would be productive of a larger percentage of tow or tangled fibre than 
results from the handling of properly retted straw. 

" In the preparation of short fibres this partial rupture of the filaments is a matter of 
no consequence, but, on the contrary, the breaking without previous retting, and its 
attendant straining of the fibre, is considered a great desideratum by those who desire 
to manipulate the fibres in their processes of cleansing and disintegration to which they 
subject this material in preparing it for spinning upon cotton machinery. It is found 
much easier to bleach and prepare the fibres of unretted, than those of retted straw, and 
the result is much more satisfactory. 

"Before dismissing the consideration of the Mallory and Sanford machines, which have 
given the commission such satisfactory results, and which present great encouragement 
to our farmers who have heretofore been deterred from flax-growing by the labor 
attendant upon the preparation of the fibre, the commissioners desire to mention an 
additional appliance to those brakes, by which the most tangled mass of straw has its 
stalks straightened out, and presented to the fluted rollers at a right angle, so as to be 
most perfectly acted upon in its passage through the machine. By this means the 
efficiency of the brakes, when acting upon tangled straw, is greatly increased. 

" Scutching consists in separating the loose shives and dirt, but also results in the 
removal of a considerable portion of the fibre, as coarse tow ; the first exposure of the 
broken flax to the scutching knives removes the most of the shives and makes the coarse 
tow ; the second scutching gives a more valuable tow product ; but the next or heckling 
process produces the fine tow, which consists of the tangled and broken filaments that 
are combed out of the streiks of flax as they are subjected to this instrument. Heckling 
is almost exclusively done by hand. Heckled tow contains very little shives. 

" Rowan's scutcher is a series of metallic beaters which, revolve with great rapidity 
on the periphery of-ft drum, in close proximity to a breast or plate of iron, over which 
the workman holds the streik, so as to expose the ends alternately to the beating pro- 
cess. The work is done rapidly, and the cleaning is very well performed, but with the 
production of a large amount of waste tow. This machine is also used as a brake, but 
appears to waste a great deal of fibre, which falls with the shives. The advantages of 
this machine are, small space occupied, and rapid work. 

" One of the most promising scutching arrangements we have seen is that of a model 
of Mallory & Sanford, which consists of a vertical drum four feet in length, composed 
of clamps for holding the streiks of flax. These are made to revolve very rapidly after 


being charged with the fibre. The centrifugal force beats the flax against the edge of 
an upright scutching board that is fixed near the periphery of the revolving drum of 
clamps. When the ends of flax are cleaned the machine is stopped, the clamps are 
removed, loosened, and the flax is shifted so that the other ends of the streiks shall be 
exposed to the scutching process. It was found in experiments before the commission 
that this machine, with one scutching-post, would clean both ends in fifty seconds, and 
b} T applying four upright scutching boards, and four clamps to each drum, it was esti- 
mated that the whole charge would be cleaned in half a minute. 

"In confirmation of our favourable impressions of the Mallory & Sanford machines, 
we subjoin some extracts from the report of the special committee on flax machinery of 
the New York State Agricultural Society. This committee report : 

'"That they carefully examined the machine presented by Messrs. Mallory & San- 
ford, New York, and tested it under a great variety of circumstances. 

" ' Experiment 1st. Ten pounds three ounces of unretted straw, precisely as it came 
from the field, was passed through the breaking machine. The time occupied was two 
minutes fifty seconds, and the weight after breaking was six pounds ten ounces. The 
scutching process occupied six minutes, and the flax weighed after scutching just two 

" ' Experiment 2nd. Ten pounds of half retted flax (dew-retted) was passed through 
the breaking machine ; the time occupied in the process was two minutes fifty seconds, 
and the flax weighed five pounds. It was scutched in nine minutes and twenty seconds, 
aud weighed two pounds three ounces. 

" ' Experiment 3rd. Twenty-one pounds one ounce of thoroughly retted (dew-retted) 
flax straw were passed through the machine in three minutes fifty seconds, and weighed 
nine pounds. The broken straw was scutched in eight minutes thirty seconds, and 
weighed four pounds fourteen ounces. With the ordinary facilities of a factory, two 
men could do with ease what it required four men to do at the trials. 

"'The average work of the machine during these three trials was 1,158 ounce per 
second, which at ten hours work per day would be equivalent to 2,668 pounds of flax 

" ' The total weight of broken straw in these three experiments was twenty pounds 
ten ounces, which was scutched in twenty-three minutes fifty seconds, which is equal to 
0.772 ounce per second. Running steadily for ten hours, a scutching machine will dress 
1,737 pounds of broken flax-straw. 

" ' It, of course, would be difficult to work the machines regularly as fast, or to do as 
much work with them as was done at these trials, but we have no doubt that the brake 
could run through 2,000 pounds of straw daily, and that two scutching machines would 
dress the flax as fast as it was broken by the first machine. Six-horse power would 
probably be amply sufficient to run the brake and the two scutchers. 

"'The unretted flax in these experiments yielded 18.9 per cent. The half-retted 
yielded 21.9 per cent. The well-retted yielded 23.1 per cent of dressed flax. 

" ' The day devoted to these experiments was a very rainy one, and the straw had 
lain upon the ground for several hours ; it had, therefore, imbibed much moisture, and 
was in a very bad condition for dressing. If the experiment had been tried in a clear, 
dry air, much better results would have been obtained.' 

" In conclusion they say : 

" ' 1st. That the machine of Mallory & Sanford does more work, with less power, 
than any other. 

" ' 2nd. That it detaches more of the worthless from the valuable portions of the 
straw than any other. 

" ' 3rd. That it wastes less of the fibre. On a careful examination of the slave after 
the experiments, we could not detect a single particle of the fibre.' 

" ' 4th. It is cheap and durable and not dangerous to either life or limb. The cost of 
the largest machine is $35(5 ; the second size, $255 ; the third, $155. 

" ' 5th. It does not require skilled labor to operate it. This remark applies to the 
brake, and not to the scutcher. \ 

" ' 6th. It requires but a very small space : the largest size occupies but four feet 
square and weighs 1,100 pounds.' 


" McBride's machine is in operation at Delaware, Ohio ; as a scutcher it is very effi- 
cient and ingenious. The flax is applied in the bite or twist of a double, endless rope, 
which receives the streik at one side, carries it through the scutcher, where it is well 
dressed throughout; during its passage, the rope shifts its hold of the flax by the torsion 
action, so that all is scutched and delivered to the workman at the other side of the 
machine, who lays away the bundles of clean flax. This machine will dress from four 
hundred to six hundred pounds a day. 

" I herewith beg to submit my treatment of converting flax into a cottonized sub- 
stance : 

" I commence by taking the flax straw gathered when fully ripe, either tangled or 
straight, after the seed has been taken off. The straw, after being air-dried, is passed 
through a flax breaker, of Sanford & Mallory's make. By the operation of this machine 
the boon, or bark, is, to a considerable extent, separated from the fibre, and the stern 
loses about fifty per cent, of its original weight and reduced to one-half of its original 
bulk. After breaking it is put through a picker and duster, by which a large portion 
of the adherent portions of wood are removed. The fibre is now ready for boiling. The 
boiling consists of the following process : 

"To every ton of the fibre add as much water as will well cover it, and afterwards 
introducing into it about five per cent, of a solution of caustic soda of the specific 
gravity 1.50°. (The caustic soda is made by adding caustic lime to a solution of soda 
ash in the proportion of two parts of lime, six parts of water, and two of soda, and 
twelve parts of water. This is the concentrated liquid). The fibre is allowed to boil 
three hours, and then is passed into a solution of carbonate of soda of five per cent. ; 
then into a solution of sulphuric acid of one and a half per cent. ; then into a solution of 
soda ash, same strength as before. It is then partially split and ready for bleaching. 

" The bleaching liquid is hypochloride of magnesia, made by taking one part by 
weight of chloride of lime to twelve parts of water; and in a separate vessel, two parts 
of sulphate of magnesia to twelve parts water. Mix the two solutions together, the 
clear liquid is then diluted to 3° Twaddle, specific gravity 1°.015. When sufficiently 
bleached, is then removed to a solution of carbonate of soda, same strength as before, 
and left there half an hour ; then passed into a solution of sulphuric acid, same strength 
as before, and allowed to remain there as long as any disengagement of gas is visible ; 
then wash the fibre in a weak solution of oil soap. It is then dried by passing through 
a wringer and passed over heated copper cylinders to the picker and duster. It is then 
carded on a Dundee card, and is finished by passing through a 48-inch wool card. The 
time occupied in the operation of boiling and steeping process to the state ready for 
carding, is six hours. 

" The expense of converting one ton of flax straw into flax cotton is as follows : 

One ton of flax straw $10 00 

Breaking one ton of straw 2 50 

Picking and dusting 1,000 pounds 1 00 

Boiling in caustic soda 570 pounds 2 50 

Labor in steeping and chemicals .... 16 00 

Washing and drying 2 00 

Picking and dusting 354 pounds 50 

Dundee carding 50 

Carding on wool cards 291 pounds, producing 257 pounds 5 00 

Total cost 40 00 

Or less than sixteen cents a pound, exclusive of rent, interest and insurance, which the 
bleached flax waste will cover. It has been sold to paper makers at four and a half 
cents per pound. The shives and other waste are used for fuel under boilers. 

Cost of machines and vats. 

Breaker $355 00 

Picker 175 00 

Duster, or willow 150 00 

Picker for white stuff : 250 00 

Dundee card 750 00 


Wool card for finishing 1,100 00 

One boiling iron vat 150 00 

Six wooden vats 300 00 

$3,230 00 

" The recent advance in the price of chemicals has raised the coet of production. 

" I adopt the Claussen process, having purchased the right for the use of his patent 
for the United States, having practically experimented upon it, and fully demonstrated 
the most favourable results. In 1854 I commenced manufacturing flax cotton at Rocky 
Hill, New Jersey, and produced a sufficient quantity on a commercial scale to induce a 
number of gentlemen to form an organized company, with a capital of $200,000; but 
from the low price of cotton and wool at that time, and the unfavorable state of the 
money market, and the prostration of the manufacturing interest, and from the preju- 
dices of manufacturers to use a new staple, they became discouraged, and from some of 
the shareholders not paying their full instalments of shares, the company disposed of 
their property after having produced about ten tons of flax cotton. Most of it was 
purchased by Messrs. Lawrence & Stone for their manufactory at Lowell. 

" I can prove from practical experience that flax and hemp can be converted into a 
fibre stronger than cotton or wool, and capable of taking better color than either ; can 
be spun and wove on the existing cotton and woollen machinery at a cost below cotton 
or wool at any time, there being less waste. It will mix and felt with wool, having had 
it mixed with wool and made into cloth and hats, and I had them worn in my family 
and found them much more durable than all-wool. 

" There has been a great deal of .prejudice against some portions of Claussen' s process 
totally unfounded and misconceived. For instance, that it was not suitable for making 
long flax, but rather that all, long and short, indiscriminately, was converted into flax 
cotton ; the fact is the reverse. No doubt the flax cotton is the greatest novelty, a new 
article of commerce, and so becomes the most prominent feature in the various inven- 
tions. The long flax, however, through Claussen's process, is produced in better condi- 
tion than as at present for the manufacturer, and what is indifferent and not sufficiently 
well grown for long flax is quite suitable for, and is converted into, flax-cotton, also 
common tow, and such like stuff. By this process the flax, instead of being pulled in a 
green state, is allowed to ripen the seed, and can be cut with a mowing machine. The 
farmer by this means saves the great expense of pulling, and has the 'seed, which alone 
pays for raising the crop, and by breaking the straw with a hand machine, such as 
Sanford & Mallory's, he can return to the land nearly one-half the weight as manure. 
The shives contain silica, and by feeding his cattle the refuse seed and bolls, he also 
obtains a rich manure. In 1854 I had an agent in "Washington exhibiting specimens 
showing the whole of Claussen's process, from the flax straw to the finished cotton, 
linen, and woollen fabrics, in a bleached, unbleached and dyed state. 

Yours respectfully, H. McFarlaxb. 


" A leading object of the appropriation having been to test the practicability of 
substituting the fibres of flax for cotton, on cotton machinery, and also of mixing thern 
instead of cotton with wool, we have directed our attention particularly to such modes 
of assimilating these fibres to cotton as would, in our judgment, be likely to accomplish 
the desired results, and to such modifications of cotton machinery (wool machinery not 
requiring any changes) as would best adapt it to the production of yarn from such 
assimilated fibres. We have not deemed it necessai'y to give much time to the 
mechanical modes of long-line flax-spinning now in general use in European countries, 
as the raising of marketable flax for long-line imposes too many burdens on the growers, 
and is produced afe too great a sacrifice of seed to w r arrant, at present, its extensive 
cultivation in this country. Both the raising of flax for long-line, and its manufacture 
by machinery where grown, seem to be better adapted to countries of humid climates, 
and of comparatively small areas for cultivation, subdivided among a dense population 
accustomed to cheap manipulating labor. There are very few mills of this kind in the 
United States, and most of these are using long-line for coarse fabrics, obtained to a 
considerable extent in the Canadas, whence it is imported free of duty under the 
reciprocity treaty. A member of this commission recently visited one of these mills at 
Braintree, Massachusetts, and was shown the various machines and processes for making 


coarse, long-line yarn and cloth. It is well known that the only mill of this class in 
our country fully equipped for spinning and weaving fine long-line yarns, (located at 
Fall River, Massachusetts), was, after a great outlay of capital and immense exertions 
to operate at a profit, converted into a cotton mill at a heavy loss, in consequence of 
an insufficient home supply, the mill being precluded from using foreign stock by a 
practically interdictive duty. 

"After the most careful consideration of various modes of growing and treating flax 
to obtain the best results to the farmer, and an abundant supply to the manufacturer, 
we are of the opinion that the crop should be planted mainly for the seed, and 
incidentally for the fibre ; that to insure the greatest profit to the grower from both 
these sources, there should be sown from four to six pecks of seed to the acre ; that if 
the crop is designed for ultimate fibre, i. e., flax-cotton, it should be harvested by 
machine cutting in the morning after the dew is off, when the seeds are sufficiently in 
the glaze to be of brown color ; thereby securing the greatest supply of oil and the 
least rigid condition of fibre ; that it should be exposed to the sun through the day, 
cocked towards night, and treated in other respects like grass cut for hay, avoiding as 
much as possible exposure to rain or dew ; that the seed should be threshed in the 
cheapest and most convenient manner regardless of the tangled condition of the straw ; 
that the latter should, for the effectual removal of the shives, be subjected to the action 
of approved power brakes, (we give the preference to Mallory & Sanford's twelve- 
roller kind), located either on the farms or at convenient points for the neighborhood 
patronage ; that in this form it should be rough-baled and sold to chemical disintegrating 
works, to be there further divested of dirt and shives by mechanical means, and exposed 
to high steam in combination with mild or strong alkaline solutions for disintegration, 
and in this finished form sold as stock for manufacturing into fine linen fabrics on cotton 
machinery. Flax cotton from such stock will be reliable for uniformity of strength, 
and be sufficiently white without bleaching prior to its manufacture into cloth. 

" But if the crop is designed for short stock to be manufactured on modified cotton 
machinery into coarse linen goods without chemical disintegration, we recommend 
retting the straw, and that on taking the flax from the brakes it be subjected to the 
further action of power disintegrating, shortening and cleaning machinery, to be located 
at convenient centres in flax-growing districts, and there be baled for the market. 

" We are aware there is an impression that unretted straw cannot be successfully 
divested of its shives by mechanical means. This impression is probably based upon 
the imperfect mode hitherto practiced in harvesting the crop. The straw, even if 
intended to be left in an unretted state, is generally permitted to lie more or less 
exposed to dew or showers a few days after cutting. This partial wetting and drying 
appears to have a tendency to crystallize the gluten or cellulose between the filaments 
and woody portions, which makes it more adhesive and harder to separate ; but if the 
straw is harvested and dried without exposure to moisture, the crystallizing process 
not being developed, we think the shives will, under the action of properly constructed 
brakes, readily separate from the fibres. We have seen unretted, tangled, as well as 
straight straw, quite thoroughly divested of shives after passing twice through a single 
head of Mallory & Sanford's brake, with the horizontal, rotating and vibrating rolls, 
placed in sets one above another. 

" It is estimated that retted straw shrinks in weight about fifteen per cent., while the 
fibre loses very little of its weight. This is caused by the partial decomposition of the 
shives and a portion of the gluten or intercellulose ; so that if the straw crop is sold in 
an unretted state a proportional allowance should be made for its extra weight, less the 
value of the unretted shives for cattle-feeding, which is said to be considerable, as their 
oleaginous properties make them quite nutritious. A ton of retted straw in good con- 
dition produces about 450 pounds of flax, while a ton of unretted produces only about 
380 pounds. Good retted straw in ordinary times is worth, in flax districts, say eleven 
dollars per ton of 2,000 pounds, equal to 2| cents per pound for the flax. This gives 
a proportional value of nine dollars per ton for unretted straw, equal to 2^ cents per 
pound for each kind of flax. The cost of labor, supplies, power, supervision and use of 
machinery and buildings for converting the straw into flax, is also about 2-^ cents per 
pound; making the entire cost of the flax at the brake machines five cents per pound. 
This, if sold at seven cents, in ordinary times would give a liberal profit to the pro- 
prietors of such machines ; but flax in this form will, of course, be subjected to a 
diminution in weight when further divested of its glutinous substance, straggling shives 
and seed-ends, by the action of preliminary machinery for converting it into filaments 


and fibres of the requisite fineness and length to be spun into coarse yarn, which with 
the loss of short fibre in manufacturing-, and tare of the bags and ropes, will be fully 
equal to twenty per cent, of its weight, thereby adding two cents per pound to the fir^t 
cost ; to which must also be added 1 £ cent per pound for railroad and mill transportation 
and other expenses, making the entire cost of the stock in ordinary times at the consuming 
mills about 10£ cents per pound. 

"The same stock sold from the brake machines at seven cents per pound to the pro- 
prietors of mechanical and chemical disintegrating works, to be "cottonized" for yarn 
suitable to weave into print-cloths or shirtings, would be subject to a loss in the 
respective processes of about forty-five per cent, of its weight, thereby adding about 6.V 
cents per pound to the cost; to which must also be added 1£ cent per pound for rail- 
road and works transportation and other expenses, making the cost at the works thus 
far fifteen cents per pound. The cost of cottonizing, including the preliminary mechanical 
operations at the works, will be about four cents per pound net weight, making the 
entire cost at the works in ordinary times, exclusive of any charge for profit, about 
nineteen cents per pound. 

"If any of the manufacturing trade should be apprehensive under this estimate that 
the difference in value between flax-cotton and cotton in ordinary times would discourage 
the use of the former, no matter how perfect the stock may be prepared, we would 
remind such, that if linen goods continue to maintain their supremacy in the market, 
print-cloths or shirtings made of flax cotton would probably command a price that 
would leave a larger difference in favor of the manufacturer than the difference of cost 
between the two kinds of stock. 

" In the early stage of the effort to cottonize, there was a general belief among experts 
(including the Chevalier Claussen, and also Mr. Sands Olcott, of Pennsylvania, the 
pioneer in this country of flax-cotton, and who patented a flax-straw cutting machine in 
1840) that it would be necessary to cut the straw into lengths comparing favorably 
with the length of cotton ; but a critical and microscopic analysis of the constituent 
parts of the fibrous covering of the straw revealed the fact that the filaments of which 
it was composed were subdivided into cells or individual tubular fibres, of nearly 
uniform fineness, and somewhat variable lengths, cemented longitudinally by inter- 
cellulose, or gluten, which, while it would to a great extent resist the disintegrating 
power of machinery, could not maintain its cohesion against the liberating and 
dissolving power of tepid-water soaking, followed by long-continued boiling in mild 
alkaline solutions and subsequent exposure for a short time to high steam ; or by boil- 
ing at a temperature of 280° Fahrenheit, with soda-ash or caustic solution, without any 
preliminary processes. 

" It then became a question to what degree of fineness and maximum and minimum 
lengths of fibre can flax be safely reduced by mechanical means only ; and in what way 
can the product of such means be successfully spun into coarse yarn on cotton machinery t 
These questions have been met by the owners of a number of cotton mills in various 
parts of the country that have heretofore been employed in manufacturing the lower 
and coarse grades of cotton goods. Some of these mills, especially those that are 
located in flax-growing regions, began with tangled straw, and carried it successful!}- 
through draught-roller brakes, dusters, and wool and cotton pickers, thereby preparing 
their own stock ; while others situated remotely from such districts have preferred 
purchasing their supply in bales, of parties residing there who have made the preparation 
of such stock a special business. The latter mode of obtaining it, besides beiug in 
accordance with the views of the commission, seems best adapted to encourage the 
alteration of this class of cotton mills into flax mills; and also for supplying flax dis- 
integrating works with material to be transformed into flax-cotton for use by a higher 
class of cotton mills in the production of fine linen goods. 

"In determining the question of length of stock by means of preparatory machinery, 
it has been found impracticable to obtain, by any combination of machines yet 
employed, maximum lengths of fibre less than about three inches, without reducing the 
minimum lengths shorter than the fibres of cotton; and hence it became necessary to 
depend for the further reduction of the maximum lengths upon modifications of the 
machinery at the mills as arranged for cotton. To this branch of the subject the com- 
mission has given much attention, but as a report of our investigations is expected in 
time for distribution soon after the closing of the present Congress, we have reluctantly 
suspended our labors without obtaining as full results as the magnitude of the inquiry 


calls for, or as the light already obtained promises. We did not think it desirable at 
the commencement of onr labors, while the manufacturers of both flax and cotton aa 
well as ourselves were in a comparatively undeveloped state, to use the appropriation 
in crude experiments, or expenditures that might result only in loss. We preferred, 
as far as possible, to avail ourselves of the incipient efforts of those whom patriotism or 
hope of securing monopolies had stimulated to attempt the solution of the cottonizing 
problem. To this end, two of our commission visited in the past autumn nearly all the 
points in the western and eastern portion of the country, and in the Canadas, where 
particular attention had been given either to the growth or manufacture of flax. From 
these visitations and conferences, to which have since been added our own experiments, 
we have reached conclusions both in regard to the most promising modes of using flax 
cotton prepared exclusively by mechanical means for the manufacture of coarse goods, 
and by combined mechanical and chemical means for the manufacture of fine goods on 
cotton machinery, which we will now proceed to delineate, premising that if the unex- 
pended balance of the appropriation is devoted to further discoveries by this or a new 
commission, the results might be given in a supplementary report at the first session 
of the next Congress. We think this course preferable to a lapse by "non-user" of the 
unexpended part, and much more likely to result in a larger contribution of valuable 
knowledge to the public upon this highly national investigation than a distribution of 
it in small sums to the many enterprising parties in different sections of the country 
who have so courteously responded to our call for information, and who have so 
generously sent specimens of their various productions for the museum of the 

"Very good short flax stock is prepared from tangled straw for coarse yarn mills by 
Randall's, Clemens's, Smith's, and several other series of machines, but the cleanest and 
finest short stock that has come under our notice is that obtained from the Davies 
machine, made at Dayton, Ohio. This machine is composed of an iron or wooden frame, 
having a series of five open aprons, fluted feed rolls that rotate in iron shells, and 
wooden cylinders which have diameters of a foot each, and revolve about six hundred 
times per minute. The surface of the cylinders is perforated for the reception of square 
spring-tempered No. 12 wires, square at the ends, and inserted in the apertures in spiral 
rows converging from the heads towards the centres, and projecting from the surface 
about half an inch. The flax either in the straw (if retted) or in the form of crude tow 
is fed on a level apron through the feed rolls to the first cylinders, from which it is 
thrown on an inclined apron to be carried to the second set of feed rolls and the second 
cylinder, and then successively over the other inclined aprons, and through the other 
feed rolls, and over the other cylinders, until delivered at the end of the machine in 
bulk, when it is collected and baled in the same manner as cotton for the market. 

" In this form it is carried into cotton mills and presented first to the lapper, no 
preliminary operations being required, as it is to a great extent free from shives, dirt, 
or other extraneous matter. But as this stock, notwithstanding its comparative clean- 
liness and the ease with which it is made into laps, is too coarse and uneven for the 
carding process, without modifying the lapper beaters to adapt them for shortening the 
long filaments and fibres and making all the fibres finer, we added to each of the beaters 
another set of arms, and attached at the ends in lieu of knives wooden lags two and a 
half inches wide. The fronts of these were covered with strips of leather two inches 
wide, into which were inserted curved and pointed teeth of No. 14 wire, with their 
points on the same periphery as the knives on the other arms, and which, when in 
motion, rotate within about one-eighth of an inch of the periphery of the feed rolls. 
The speed of the beaters, arranged in this manner, should be about 2,000 revolutions 
per minute. When the beaters are so equipped, they not only distribute the grist 
evenly on the wire cylinders and lap rollers, but if the laps are doubled and carried 
through the lapper a second time, they disintegrate the filaments so thoroughly as to 
largely increase their number, and at the same time materially shorten those that were 
of too great length for the subsequent operations in the mill, without visibly shortening 
those that were sufficiently short in the bale. The laps so prepared are next carried to 
the carding machines, the carding power of which, in a great number of American 
mills, is in a main cylinder, doffer, and top-flats, all covered with fine, chisel-pointed 
wire clothing, which, although well adapted for carding cotton, is considered insufficient 
for carding flax fibre. The insufficiency is caused by the fact that flax fibres have less 
elasticity and greater specific gravity than cotton, and are withal straight rather than 
curled like the latter, and hence do not rest easily upon the surface of the teeth, but are 
inclined to imbed themselves among the teeth, which makes it desirable to substitute 


needle-pointed clothing for chisel-pointed on the main cylinders and doffers, and also to 
substitute working, stripping, and fancy cylinders for the top flats, which should like- 
wise be covered (except the fancy) with needle-pointed clothing. This form of the 
teeth permits the workers and strippers, aided by the long and flexible teeth of the 
fancy, to act freely on the main cylinder, keeping the stock upon its surface and ready 
for delivery to the doffer. If the chisel-pointed clothing, however, of the main cylinders 
and dorters is in good condition, and the stock is well prepared, it can be used in con- 
nexion with the working, stripping, and fancy cylinders, but the two former kinds must 
have needle-pointed clothing. The latter is always covered with long, fine, and flexible 
clothing. The surface velocity of the fancy cylinder should be about twenty-five feet 
faster than the surface velocity of the main cylinder ; the workers and strippers should 
run at the usual speeds; and one worker and one stripper are sufficient for one card. 
The cards should have screens of perforated sheet zinc under the main cylinders, and 
the licker-in cylinders (if there are any) about three- eighths of an inch from their sur- 
faces, otherwise too much of the stock will be thrown off in the form of waste by the 
centrifugal forces developed in the rotation of these cylinders. The feed rolls should 
be heavily weighted, and their speed be increased about twenty-five per cent. The 
stock may be carded once or twice. We think once is sufficient. In either case, the 
fleece should first be delivered into a railway trough ; and, if intended for a second 
carding, the product or sliver should be collected from calendar rolls without being 
lengthened, and made into laps for the finishing cards, and from their railway should 
be drawn by means of a draught railhead from two and a half to three inches. This 
head should have three under rolls, one and one-quarter inch in diameter, placed about 
three and a half inches from centre to centre of the back and front rolls. The back 
and front rolls should be fluted or corrugated ; the back top roll should also be fluted 
or corrugated, while the front top roll should be covered either with vulcanized rubber 
or gutta-percha, (the latter can be had at 153 Broadway, New York, of the Gutta-Percha 
Manufacturing Company), and both rolls should be one and one-half inch in diameter. 
The middle under roll should be encircled by T a spring gill, with collars at either end, 
rising an eighth of an inch above the points of the gill needles ; the back top roll 
should be slightly weighted, and the front top heavily. The entire draught should be 
between the gill roll and the front roll. The shivers from this head should be collected 
in cans, and passed through either one or two heads of a drawing frame, with gills on 
the middle under rolls, and with top rolls fitted like the top rolls of the railhead, 
doubling the slivers at the draughts, which should not exceed one inch into four. 
From the drawing frame the stock should be made into condensed and untwisted roving 
on a Taunton speeder, arranged with gills on the middle roll, and with top rolls similar 
to the rail and drawing frame heads. The spinning frames may have either rings or 
flyers for twisting. As good yarn can be had from one as the other, it is indispensable 
that the frames should have large rings or flyers designed for coarse spinning only, 
as the kind of stock we are treating of cannot at present be made into finer yarn than 
numbers ranging from six to ten, (cotton gauge), and it is wholly impracticable to 
think of spinning it on frames designed for yarn ranging between twenty and thirty- 
five skeins to the pound. The frames for this stock must be arranged with a draught 
not exceeding one inch into six inches, and should be fitted with spring gills on the 
middle rolls for each spindle, and with uncovered smooth iron back top rolls one and a 
half inch in diameter without weights. The front rolls should compare with the front 
rolls in the preceding operations. These spinning gills consist of twenty rows of 
tapering needles, seven-sixteenths of an inch long and one thirty-second of an inch in 
diameter at the base, six in a row, one-sixteenth of an inch apart, and inserted obliquely 
through apertures in a brass hollow cylinder one and seven-sixteenths inch in exterior 
diameter, and projecting through the surface four-sixteenths of an inch, making the 
entire diameter of the periphery of the points one and fifteen-sixteenths inch, with brass 
collars at their ends one and six-sixteenths inch exterior, and fourteen-sixteenths of an 
inch interior diameter, and flanches to the same, one and nine-sixteenths inch in 
diameter, fitted with steady pins and set screws for attaching the entire gill to the 
middle roll. The gills cost three dollars each ; the needles can be purchased at $2.50 
per thousand. These gills, as well as the larger kind for railheads, drawing frames, and 
speeders, are made by Messrs. Lanphear, Levalley & Co., at Phenix Village, Rhode 

" The yarn spun from this stock makes excellent twine, and can be woven into crash, 
osnaburgs, burlaps, and sugar cloths; and, when doubled for warp, it makes very 
superior grain bags. 


" Foremost among- the cotton mills that have been altered substantially in the way 
we have described to make some of the above fabrics, are the Hope and Penn mills, of 
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, owned by James II. Childs, Esq., and others. The best flax 
grain bags in the country are made at these mills, and at the same mills are also made 
very superior stock for battings and for the use of upholsterers. Too much credit 
cannot be given to the proprietors of these mills for their patriotic and successful efforts 
to disenthral the north from entire dependence on cotton for these manufactures, and 
for the encouragement they have given to the owners of other mills to follow their 
praiseworthy example. The mills at Lockport, New York, owned by ex-Governor 
Hunt and others, are also producing excellent brown and bleached stock for upholstery, 
waddings and coarse yarns, as well as twine of a very high grade. The Medina Flax 
Company's Works, at Medina, New York, are likewise producing goods of a similar 
character, of superior quality. To this list must be added the mills of Governor Smith 
and others, in Warwick, Rhode Island, that are making gram bags of excellent quality, 
besides carpet warps, twine and rugs. There are many other successful pioneers in 
this branch of flax manufacture obtaining most encouraging results, so that this depart- 
ment of substituting flax for cotton on cotton machinery may be considered no longer 
problematical, but a success. 

" Having thus portrayed what we conceive to be the best mechanical mode of disin- 
tegrating, shortening and otherwise preparing flax for coarse yarn stock, and the best 
mode of carrying such stock through the various processes into yarn on cotton 
machinery for the manufacture of coarse linen goods, we will next present the results of 
our efforts, and the efforts of others as observed by us, to cottonize flax by combined 
mechajaical and chemical means to the requisite fineness, evenness and strength for 
being manufactured into print cloths, shirtings or sheetings, on cotton machinery, either 
by an admixture of from fifty to seventy-five per cent, of the fibres with cotton, or by 
their exclusive use as flax-cotton. It is wholly impracticable to disintegrate flax into 
its ultimate fibre or cells without the intervention of a solvent for the intercellulose or 
gluten, as previously indicated. And we think it is equally impracticable to rely upon 
mere mechanical forces to separate the fibres after such disintegration, if they are 
allowed to become entirely dry before the application of such means. The un decom- 
posed gluten is so unyielding in its nature that, if not partially wet, the separation will 
inevitably be attended with so much breakage of the fibres as to materially injure the 
stock. But if they are slightly moist, they readily slide apart into ultimate lengths 
through the agency of properly constructed pickers that will blow them into a dry 
atmosphere. It is also just as important, as we have shown, that flax-cotton obtained 
through chemical disintegration should be prepared exclusively from unretted stock. 
Some persons say that the filaments of unretted stock are more brittle than those from 
retted stock, and therefore more liable to abrasion in the preliminary mechanical 
operations of cottonizing. This, if true, would be incomparably less injurious to the 
fibre than over-retting, a fault of every-day occurrence in retted straw. Unretted stock 
will endure soaking, boiling and steaming without injury, while retted, if over-retted, 
will be easily decomposed ; and if it is not over-retted, and is not injured in passing- 
through these operations, the cost of bleaching it, either before or after it is manufac- 
tured, will be much greater (besides being attended with more danger of injury) than 
the cost of bleaching unretted stock. Hence we recommend the discontinuance of 
further experiments on retted stock for flax-cotton intended for the manufacture of 
goods, for bleaching or printing, or goods that require the element of durability. We 
also recommend the postponement of bleaching unretted flax-cotton until it is manufac- 
tured into fabrics. 

" Specimens of bleached and unbleached flax-cotton, hemp-cotton, asclepias cotton, 
and China-grass cotton, have been sent by divers persons to the commission, some of 
them very nicely disintegrated ; but three only ol all the contributors who have re- 
sponded to our call have accompanied their specimens with any explanation of the 
mode of cottonizing, viz: Mr. H. McFarlane, of Rocky Hill, New Jersey, who uses the 
Claussen process ; Mr. Hugh Burgess, of Royer's Ford, Pennsylvania, and Messrs. 
Fuller & Upham, of Claremont, New Hampshire. Mr. Burgess has not experimented so 
extensively as the latter gentlemen, but the specimens of both are well disintegrated 
and separated, or cottonized. The contributions of Mr. Burgess were cottonized from 
flax of unretted, tangled straw dressed on Mallory & Sanford's 12-roller brake, in the 
presence of two of the commission, and also from flax of retted straw dressed and 
cleaned in his neighbourhood. His process for short stock consists, after further 
cleaning by a suitable mechanical apparatus, in submitting it to the action of soda ash 


(or its equivalent in potash) in caustic solution, for an hour, in an iron boiler, (Keen's 
patent boiler preferred), at a temperature of about 280°° Fahrenheit, the boiler to be 
heated in any convenient manner, and the mass of flax to be kept under the solution 
while boiling;. The quantity of alkali used is from one-quarter to three quarters of a 
pound of dry soda ash to one pound of flax, according to the condition of the latter. 
After boiling-, the mass is blown through the manhole under pressure into a tank, and 
then the solution is drained off, evaporated, and burned for repeated use. About eighty 
per cent, of the alkali is saved. The stock, after draining, is washed with hot water 
until all traces of the alkali disappear. It is then bleached by the use of bleaching 
liquid percolated through the mass, after which it is washed, squeezed and dried. If 
long stock is used, it is formed into hanks and put into wire cylinders, which are then 
placed in the boiler, and, when boiled sufficiently in the solution, the latter is gradually 
drawn through an opening in the bottom of the boiler, and evaporated and burned as 
before. The hanks in the cylinders, on being taken from the boiler, are washed, 
bleached and dried. After drying, both kinds of stock are to be separated by ma- 
chinery. He has not yet constructed machinery (except models) for reducing the 
disintegrated fibres or cells to uniformity of length, or for separating them longitu- 
dinally, but is experimenting In that direction, and expects soon to accomplish the 
desired result. His process and product were patented in January, 1864. 

" The contributions of Messrs. Fuller & Upham were also cottonized from unretted, 
tangled straw (which they much prefer to retted), dressed by one passage through 
Mallory & Sanford's brake. This brake, Fuller & Upham say, removes about ninety 
per cent, of the shives. These gentlemen, instead of depending on flax-disintegrating, 
shortening, and cleaning machinery located in flax-growing districts, take the stock 
from the brake and pass it through a shive-cleaning machine of their own invention, 
which consists of a series of card cylinders placed in a frame over each other. The 
stock is fed upon an apron at the bottom, and is carried from the first cylinder to the 
others successively to the top, where it is delivered from the machine. These cylinders 
act upon each other as workers and strippers. They are in a screen of zinc placed 
within three-sixteenths of an inch of the card teeth, having apertures for the discharge 
of the remaining shives and dirt by the centrifugal force of the cylinders. The latter 
are all enclosed in a ease reaching below the cylinders that receives the waste, which is 
removed at the bottom. The stock is then placed in a vat with water kept at 90° 
Fahrenheit for twenty-four hours. The water is then drawn through a grate bottom, 
and the vat is again filled with water containing one barrel of soap to one thousand 
pounds of dry fibre, and boiled twelve hours by steam at 212° Fahrenheit, when the 
water is again drawn as before, and pure water is percolated through the mass the. 
remaining twelve hours. There are two of these vats, that the soaking may be done 
one day. and the boiling and washing the next, in the same vat, without removing the 
flax until it is ready for the steaming process. The stock is next transferred in rail 
cars from the vat to a horizontal iron cylinder having an adjustable head and a per- 
forated movable piston operated by a screw and gears. It also has a large escape- valve 
at the rear head near the top, and is supplied with steam from a boiler through pipes. 
It likewise has a pipe to draw off the water and extractive matter. The flax being 
placed in the cylinder, and the head screwed on, steam at ninety pounds pressure is let 
on for twenty minutes, when the perforated piston is run towards the head of the boiler, 
squeezing the stock into a compact 'cheese.' The water-pipe is then opened, and the 
water with the glutinous matter in solution, that has been pressed through the per- 
forated piston, is blown off. The pipe is then closed, the piston is drawn back, and the 
escape-valve opened, which permits the steam to escape through the apertures in the 
piston, and out of the cylinder. Instantly this valve is opened, the steam in the fibres 
expands, overcoming the cohesion of the softened intercellulose, and riding the cylinder 
with disintegrated ultimate fibre or cells of the flax. The explosion is recommended to 
be only sufficiently powerful to disrupt the fibres and leave them measurably in parallel 
lines; for if they are entirely separated, many of them would be broken, and become, 
like immature cotton, too short to be profitably spun into yarn. The fibre is then 
taken from the cylinder, and, when partially cooled, is passed through a compound 
wringer, consisting of a cylinder eighteen inches in diameter and twelve inches in 
length, having several rubber rolls that revolve, with the flax passmg between them 
and the cylinder. In connexion with the wringer there is a series of differently speeded 
drawing rolls that passes the stock between them, drawing it into a thin sheet to 
facilitate drying and to equalize the lengths of the filaments and fihres. The stock is 
then put into a box with a grate bottom, under which is a coil of heated Bteam-pipea. 


A rotary fori forces the air into the bottom under the pipes, and through the flax, 
thereby rapidly removing the moisture. When it is sufficiently dried by this arrange- 
ment to allow the fibres to slide apart without sticking to each other, it is passed 
through an opener which consists of a horizontal cylinder covered with needle-pointed 
card clothing, with workers covered in the same manner, and placed under the main 
cylinder, which makes about one thousand and four hundred revolutions a minute, and 
throws the stock into an adjoining room. The flax is then carried through ordinary 
gambril cards, and taken off by a railhead with large and strong-eorrugated iron rolls, 
held together by rubber springs, to pull apart any remaining long filaments. It is then 
passed through a lapper and a fine gambril card, and baled for the market. The mode 
of preparing this stock, the steaming cylinder, and a considerable portion of the 
machinery used, are patented, and the entire apparatus is built by the patentees and 
their partner, Mr. Rice, at Claremont. The price of the apparatus (at present cost of 
labor and materials) for one thousand pounds of fibre per day, is about fifteen thousand 
dollars. Parties who may desire to embark in the manufacture of linen goods from 
stock prepared under the patents of these gentlemen would probably do better, in the 
beginning, to buy their stoek from the owners of disintegrating works. 

"There is a difference of opinion among those who have made microscopic examina- 
tions of the texture of flax fibres as to their composition. While all agree that they 
are cellular, and have transverse lines at variable distances, some think the lines are 
pores through which the interior moisture is evaporated in drying, and that the cellu- 
lose structure differs sufficiently from the structure of the intercellulose to allow the 
decomposition of the latter without injury to the former ; others that the transverse 
lines indicate the growth of the cells, like cane joints; and that the composition of the 
cells is so nearly akin to the composition of the intercellulose, that both cannot be more 
than partially decomposed without so materially impairing the strength of the former 
at the marks, and intermediately, as to render them too weak for manufacturing. It is- 
evident to us that the union of the cellular and intercellular matter is so thorough that 
while the former may be relieved from the tenacious hold of the latter, there should 
always be left enough of the intercellulose adhering*to the cellulose after disintegration 
to keep the cells together until they are separated, if in a moist state, by sliding them 
apart through the intervention of jmlling rollers; or if in a dry state, by the application 
of a picker to break them apart. The probability is that if the decomposition of the 
intercellulose is complete, or nearly so, the fibre would be much injured, if not de- 
stroyed. Hence the absolute necessity, in cottonizing, of using unretted flax, which 
always has fibre reliable for strength in any high steam process of disintegration if 
properly prepared. 

" The opinion of the commission has often been asked upon the relative durability of 
goods made of long-line flax, or flax-cotton, and the relative strength of goods made of 
the latter to goods made of cotton. From such examination as we have been able to 
give the inquiry, we think that goods made from sound, long-line stoek, when new, will 
be stronger than those made of well-prepared flax-cotton, in consequence of the excess 
of glutinous or intercellular matter in long-line yarns ; but that as flax-cotton goods 
will be softer and less liable to crack when new than goods of long-line, while each 
ultimate fibre will be as strong, there is every reason to believe that they will be more 
durable, besides having the advantage of flowing more gracefully when made into 
garments; and as the fibres of flax-cotton are much stronger than the fibres of cotton, 
and much more soft and silky, fabrics made from them must not only be stronger when 
new, but more reliable for service than cotton goods. 

" In addition to the probable greater durability of flax-cotton fabrics over those made 
of cotton, is the important fact of their superior ability to receive and hold colors. This 
is supposed to be caused by the difference in the shape of the fibre of the two plants. 
We have remarked that both are tubular ; but the wall of a flax fibre being thick, its 
tubular form is permanently preserved, while the wall of cotton fibre being thin its 
tubular form in drying becomes flat spirally, like a twisted ribbon ; consequently it 
presents only a flattened surface to receive and retain color ; and hence it is always 
less brilliant, even when first dyed, than a flax fibre, the tube of which excludes the 
air, and by its transparency, reflects the colour strongly, while its closed condition 
shields the color from the fading influence of the atmosphere. 

" The flax-cotton of Messrs. Fuller & Upham has been spun on cotton machinery into 
abont No. 24, (cotton gauge), and also woven in the form of weft into print-cloth. To 
spin it successfully it will be necessary to alter the lapper and cards in the manner 


indicated for coarse yarns, and to reduce the number and draught of the drawing 
heads. One head with a draught of oue inch into four inches will probably answer 
between the rail head and speeders. The middle top rolls of. the rail and drawing heads 
and speeders must be relieved of a portion of their weights. The middle top rolls of 
the spinning frames must be wholly relieved of their weights, which can be done by 
substituting single saddles from the front top to the back top rolls for the double 
saddles generally used, unless the back top rolls are of smooth iron about one and a 
half inch in diameter, in which case the front rolls may be weighted with a hook and 
lever weights, and the back rolls be left without weights. 

"As cordage and for twines, to which, in the cheaper days of cotton, that substance 
was extensively applied, hemp and flax still assume their pre-eminence and superiority. 
Even to the grocer's twine, which must be short and easily broken, these fibres have 
been extensively and profitably applied. Every variety of twine is now made of flax 
and tow in several establishments. Thread of the best quality for many purposes is 
also prepared from this material, and for some branches of the arts it has always been 
deemed superior to cotton. Coarse linen fabrics of every description, from bagging 
down through burlaps, crash, duck, diaper, &c, have all been successfully made of flax 
and hemp, where formerly the greater cheapness of cotton had caused that fibre to 
supplant its legitimate competitor. In the article of seamless grain-bags, which were 
formerly made altogether from cotton, we now have a much better article produced 
from flax. The nicely prepared battings of flax, whether bleached or unbleached, have 
taken the place, to a great degree, of the application formerly made of the dirty and 
refuse cotton for this purpose ; but the greater weight of the flaxen material depreciates 
its value and usefulness when to be applied in this way, for a given number of pounds 
of flax batting will cover a space but half as large as an equal quantity of carded cotton. 

"It would not be consistent with the limits of this report to take up the discussion if 
the whole subject of paper-making, although its main feature depends upon the value of 
these very fibres we have been examining. As in its production, however, flaxen and 
hempen fibres may very advantageously be substituted for those of cotton, we may be 
pardoned for making some allusions to this matter. As before intimated, all of these 
several fibrous substances are composed of nearly pure cellulose, and thus, in their 
ultimate composition they are very much alike. It further appears that whatever 
materials be used for paper-making, their value will depend upon the amount of this 
proximate principle of cellulose which they contain, and whether the stock consist of 
solid wood, hollow straw, fresh fibre of bast cells from our flax fields, waste cotton from 
the factories, or worn-out clothing and old ropes, made from these different fibres, 
their value in every case depends upon the amount of pure cellulose which can be 
derived from them. The cellulose from the several sources appears to exist in nearly 
the same proportions, about fifty per cent., whether we take the wood or the straw for 
the raw material. 

"The union of these fibrous substances in the tissue of paper depends upon a peculiar 
condition which has been imparted to them by the action of the paper machine, so 
tearing and breaking the cells and fibrils, and fraying their ends as to give them a sort 
of felting property — quite different, it is true, from what is described as felting, in 
another part of this report, but still enabling the ends of the fragments to unite with 
one another so as to form a tissue of more or less consistency, according to the nature 
of the materials used. 

"An application of flax as a substitute for cotton, which was little expected, presented 
itself in the formation of hard rolls for print-works and bleacheries. In the construction 
of these rollers it had been a desideratum to get a hard and elastic surface. This was 
first accomplished by disks of heavy paper closely applied to one another upon a shaft, 
firmly compressed and then turned into shape. Next, cotton itself was used ; but it is 
now found that flax fibre may be applied to this object with the most satisfactory results. 

" One of the greatest claims which flax presents to our notice is its ability to replace 
cotton, and with great advantage, too, in all the cases where that substance was formerly 
used in combination with wool in the production of mixed fabrics. Hempen and flaxen 
yarns are now resuming their original importance in the manufacture of carpets, both 
alone and when used as the warp only, of those useful tissues, in which cotton had 
entered as the leading article."